Alfred Hitchcock thrilled us with "The 39 Steps", Arthur Penn changed the game with "Bonnie and Clyde" and Terence Malick made a legendary debut with "Badlands". These are some of the greatest films of all time, but they also share a common theme of lovers on the lam. Daniel Wolfe therefore had a lot to live up to with his debut feature "Catch Me Daddy", a thriller about two young lovers on the run from their family and their past. Despite his admirable efforts however, Wolfe's gritty ambitions yield underwhelming results.
"Catch Me Daddy" centers around Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed), a young woman of Pakistani descent living in Scotland. Alienated from her family on account of her interracial relationship with her Scottish boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron), she gets by on a hardscrabble existence, working as a hairdressing assistant while Aaron seeks employment. Their love sustains them however, until her brother and his gang of miscreants decide to hunt her down. Things soon get violent, and the doomed lovers are forced to make a run for it through the perilous Yorkshire Moors.
The success - or lack thereof - of "Catch Me Daddy" rests on the shoulders of its young leads, both making their film debuts here. But whereas the actors themselves have an appealing screen presence, the characters felt vaguely written. Throughout much of the film, I constantly questioned the motives of the characters and as such, I struggled to care about them or their plight. Admittedly, the heavily accented, unintelligible dialogue may have been a factor.
The dialect spoken by the characters speaks to the film's impressive authenticity however. And in that regard, what makes the film most intriguing is the palpable milieu of its setting. Indeed, what the screenplay lacks in clarity, it makes up for in the potent atmosphere of the Yorkshire Moors and its environs. The enveloping fog brings inherent drama and mystery, while the cultural specificity of the urban setting has a unique, vibrant energy. It's hardly surprising that the gifted Robbie Ryan - who shot all of Andrea Arnold's films - is credited as the film's cinematographer. His compositions are as rich and evocative as anyone else in the business.
It's truly a shame that "Catch Me Daddy" is ultimately so underwhelming, as director Daniel Wolfe shows undeniable promise as a filmmaker. His visceral use of sound and imagery certainly delivers its fair share of indelible moments, mostly due to its unflinching eye on the harsh brutality. Indeed, the film's grit and authenticity are beyond reproach. But unfortunately, between the unstimulating leads and their repellent antagonists, "Catch Me Daddy" gave me nothing else to hold on to.