Fantasia 2015: ‘Catch me Daddy’ features star-making performance from Sameena Jabeen Ahmed

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Catch me Daddy

Written by Daniel and Matthew Wolfe

Directed by Daniel Wolfe

UK, 2014

Pink hair, silver nails, green eyes. Smoke rises from a rolled cigarette and from nearby work in the field. These impressions, whispers of a time and a place, fuel Catch Me Daddy the debut feature of  Daniel Wolfe. The film is undeniably beautiful, a minimalist ode to the underside of Yorkshire life. The surfaces of image, sound and performance craft a poetic illusion that is impenetrable thematically and emotionally. The overall experience is frustrating and empty.

The story itself is straightforward. Laila(Sameena Jabeen Ahmed), in the throes of adolescent rebellion, has left her family and lives in a run down trailer with her boyfriend, Aaron (Conor McCarron).  Her ailing father is desperate for her return and offers a reward to two groups of low-end criminals to retrieve his daughter. Motives remain estranged for the most part as the film maintains an ironic distance from the characters. This decision does seem to compete with the minimalism of the aesthetic, offering little to latch onto for even the most patient of viewers.

Catch me Daddy is a sensorial experience above all else. For those who revel in pretty images, strong cuts and a music video aesthetic the film is a must-see. It is adventurous visually often disregarding conventions with mixed results. The nighttime sequences in particular are admirable for trusting natural light, allowing characters and setting to be immersed in darkness for the sake of “realism”. This can be equally alienating though, and some stretches of the film feel endlessly enclosed in obscurity. At times the film can also feel like a sort of vacation slideshow in squalor, depicting a social reality with little context and a dash of romanticism. Specificity is usually an asset to storytelling, but in this case, the circumstances of the plot and characters remains too difficult to ascertain without intimate knowledge of the socio-economic realities of Yorkshire.

The film’s greatest asset is Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, who gives an incredible performance as Laila. She has particularly expressive eyes that seem to hold the weight of multiple lives lived. She conveys so much through glances and gestures, bringing untold layers to a film that otherwise seems content to focus on the surface. She has boundless energy and humour, her presence is electric, spontaneous and compelling. As worthwhile the film is for its visual inventiveness, it is Sameena Jabeen Ahmed who transcends the work – more so than the filmmakers, she is the one worth keeping an eye out for.

With any film that takes risks, and revels in sensual experience audience reactions will be motivated by mood above all else. Fans of filmmakers like Philippe Grandrieux, Gaspar Noe and Andrea Arnold might be lucky to find value in this work. Their style is cloaked in the same general spirit, though I’d argue the brutal confrontationalism of the previous filmmakers is absent here. Catch Me Daddy does indulge in some scenes of shocking violence and aggressive misanthropy, but rooted in distance they feel uninvolved at best, gratuitous at worst. The distance that the author’s take from the material is their biggest mistake: More than just alienating it only serves to amplifies the film’s flaws.

– Justine Smith

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