If Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant (2013) was a fairytale set in ‘It’s grim up north’ territory, this year’s Glasgow Film Festival offers up a Yorkshire western in Daniel Wolfe’s bleak, windswept thriller Catch Me Daddy (2014), which unexpectedly broods over the multicultural integration of northern Britain. British-Pakistani Laila, played with conviction by non-professional actress Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, and Aaron (Canor McCarron), are two teenagers in hiding. They live in a trailer park out of town, arguing about whether they can go out at night. Laila wants to meet her mate from work at a local nightclub, but Aaron barks urgently at her not to because it’s too dangerous. He’s right to be worried.
On their way are two groups of thugs seeking them out. One carload is Asian, including Laila’s brother, and the other has two hard-knuckle white guys, both looking for Laila ostensibly to follow through with an honour killing because of her father’s disapproval of her choice of partner. The film’s thriller aspirations give way to some rather stark notional musings about the nature of multicultural integration in today’s modern society today. The whites look like they’re there for the money, even if one’s an explosive racist (a dazzling debut by Barry Nunney), while Tony, played by Billy Elliot’s Gary Lewis, appears to have recently lost a member of his own family. Will their personal baggage come into play? What is assured is that by the end of the film both ethnicities will have got their own back in some fashion.
Catch Me Daddy is by no means flawless in this regard. There’s an issue of believability at the centre (although Wolfe says it was based on a newspaper story he read), but there’s enough questions that the film poses to keep you absorbed. It’s potentially a little too long – its improvisational technique with non-professional actors frustrating at times – and its violence-for-violence’s sake hasn’t the raw terror of, say, Ben Wheatley’s lo-fi kitchen sink oddities. The climax is also rather rushed – while psychologically real, in plot terms it’s utterly daft. But there’s poetry in the filmmaking (Ted Hughes’ poem, Heptonstall Old Church, is narrated over the start of proceedings) which marks Wolfe out as the real deal.
Laila and Aaron stroll through rigged scenery smoked-up by fires in the distance in one scene, and the director knows just how to rack up the tension. It’s in Catch Me Daddy’s small touches, however, that Wolfe most impresses: Laila and Aaron play-fighting while the pursuers drive for miles to reach them; or an extended scene when Laila and Aaron get high and dance crazily to Patti Smith’s Horses as if to amplify a calm before an impending storm. Furthermore, this eye-catching British debut is superbly shot by Andrea Arnold’s cinematographer Robbie Ryan, who captures the isolation of being lost in the countryside in wonderful 35mm.
The full Glasgow Film Festival 2015 programme, ticketing details and more can be viewed at glasgowfilm.org.