Catch Me Daddy is the first film from Daniel Wolfe, and it’s one hell of an entrance to make. The story is apparently pretty basic: Laila and Aaron are two young lovers on the run from Laila’s traditionalist Pakistani family. The screenplay (written by Daniel and Matthew Wolfe) is a starkly grim piece of social realism, but Daniel’s direction elevates it to a cross-genre piece that is hideously, terrifyingly beautiful.
Beside social realism, the film plays on a bunch of different genres. Daniel Wolfe himself mentioned how it is riffing off the Western tradition – a team of violent guys rock up in a small community to bring back a girl (in fact, Laila’s father shares a lot with John Wayne’s character from The Searchers) the man desperately searching for a lost relative, and with both the audience and the characters unclear as to whether, upon her capture, he will embrace or kill her. There’s also some fairytale, some music-video, some coming-of-age storylines mixed up in there. This film could come across as a bit pretentious, and maybe just a bit too much, but somewhere along the line – in the writing of the screenplay, the directing, the acting – there’s enough honesty and realism injected to make it work.
Wolfe’s background is in music videos, and it shows. The film’s soundtrack, often bizarrely dissonant with the goings-on on screen, is used masterfully. Laila and Aaron dance to Patti Smith’s Horses intercut to shots of her family and the thugs closing in on their caravan in a scene that is at once mesmerizing yet painfully tense and morbid – much like the song itself. It’s not flashy, it’s not idealized or demonized – it’s just two people dancing in a caravan, and works as a microcosm of Wolfe’s attitude towards directing. He allows the grim, the dirty, the inelegant to be honestly presented, and then allows his filming and audio-visual editing to work them into beauty.
Laila’s relationship with Aaron is not idealized – they fight, they live in a tiny caravan spending most of their time drinking alcohol they have distilled themselves, but they work, they support each other and they’re a good couple. Laila’s life isn’t idealized either – she’s escaped from her family, sure, but she’s still broke, working at a grim looking hairdresser’s while her boyfriend brews drugs in his caravan. Similarly, the ‘villains’ are hardly evil – Laila’s brother honestly just wants to get her back, and tries pretty hard to avoid bloodshed. One of the hired thugs seems genuinely concerned for Laila’s safety, but he’s horribly in debt to his cocaine addiction. Laila’s father can’t decide whether he still loves his daughter or hates her.
A couple of the characters are a little more one sided – a thug who seems a little too evil, a couple of the family members seem a bit too hell-bent on violence with no hope of a reconciliation – but they sit among a cast that is otherwise near-perfect. It’s not a tale of good versus evil, or heroes and villains; just some human beings with profoundly different worldviews stuck on a destructive path.
If this film had come from an experienced director, I’d be talking about it as a highlight of their career. But it’s the first film from Daniel and Matthew Wolfe, and I can hardly imagine what they’re going to do with the rest of their careers. 4/5