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Catch Me Daddy
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by Jay Seaver

"Catch this one, but watch it closely."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Catch Me Daddy" opens with a poem/folk tale about its Yorkshire setting, fitting enough but a bit surprising, as the story is driven by people and traditions that arrived in the UK from elsewhere. On the other hand, it's a movie where the heroine is at least second-generation and fairly well-assimilated, probably feeling that present location is more important that old customs herself.

One might not necessarily peg Leila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) as being of Pakistani descent right away - she's dyed her hair dirty blonde, dresses the same as the other girls working at the salon, and looks more tan than dark-skinned. She is, though, and her life in this small town with her handsome but unemployed boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron) is actually one in hiding. Her father wants his 20-year-old daughter back home and under his thumb, and probably not with a white guy. He's had people looking, and now that they think they know the right town, two teams have been sent. One is middle-eastern and includes seasoned hunter Junaid (Anwar Hussain) and Leila's brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad); the other Caucasian duo Barry (Barry Nunney) and Tony (Gary Lewis).

Filmmakers Daniel & Matthew Wolfe don't spend a whole lot of time explaining about honor killings or other nasty traditions that can maintain roots in an immigrant community. Instead, they tend to present the pursuit of Leila as just an ugly fact of life in that social and economic class, roughly equivalent to Aaron's stubborn unemployment or Tony's drug addiction. For the most part, things are on the move too much for this film to concentrate on day-to-day life in working-class England, but there are bits where they seem intent on blending the life-or-death struggles with the everyday ones. Leila and Aaron seem to have fled before, will again (if they survive this night), and that is their lot.

Well, maybe the Wolfes do exposit a little and I missed it because I'm American and the Yorkshire accent can be a tough one for us; some in the audience will be relieved when people start speaking Bengali because those lines will be subtitled. It's not necessarily a bad thing, though; it's not impenetrable and encourages concentration. Even if the accents aren't a problem, viewers may still want to pay very close attention in other ways, as most of the film takes place at night and the filmmakers leave it quite dark. They make use of that darkness; Leila and Aaron never have a clear way out, and there could be a sudden drop around the corner, as the daylight scenes established the topography well enough for the audience to worry. The hunters who looked ordinary during the day become frightening in shadows, and though the action may be somewhat obscured, it's no less tense.

The Wolfes do take a little while getting to that tension, using the first chunk of the movie in fairly quiet manner, with Leila going about her life in mostly-happy but somewhat unremarkable fashion, while the hunters come together and then search, ham-fistedly enough to keep the audience from being especially fascinated by the process. The chase itself is exciting, though, with the moments of action well-executed and often shocking in their intensity, and if the climax is maybe something you'd think would have been tried before, it leads to a final act filled with different sorts of tensions.

That part of the film puts an even greater spotlight on Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, who plays Leila despite apparently having no prior film experience, but does a fine job regardless. We mostly get to know Leila by what she does and how, rather than her explaining herself, and Ahmed never seems held back by that; she also holds up nicely when Leila is really put through the wringer. Other characters come in and out but make an impression, most notably Gary Lewis as the older, addicted hunter and Wasim Zakir brings it as the mostly-offscreen father. Ali Ahmad seems to nail Zaheer as the sort of brother in a patriarchal culture that doesn't understand why his sister doesn't just go along, and Connor McCarron grabs hold of the parts of the script that make Aaron very appealing even if a basic description has him seem a bit of a wastrel.

It makes for a tense thriller with some great moments, and the circumstances give it a unique feel for the genre. It's rough in spots, but with impressive feature debuts both behind and in front of the camera, it feels fresher and more dangerous than a lot of other pictures meant to excite.

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originally posted: 07/30/15 01:39:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Cannes Film Festival For more in the 2014 Cannes Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 London Film Festival For more in the 2014 London Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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  27-Feb-2015 (15)


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