Catch Me Daddy: British social realism at its paroxysm
by Bénédicte Prot
- CANNES 2014: Daniel Wolfe is competing for the Caméra d'or at Cannes with a cruel tale in which a loving father becomes a tyrant and goes on a hunt for his daughter
Never has new-generation British social realism been as terrifying as the first feature-length film by music video director Daniel Wolfe, named Catch Me Daddy [+see also:
interview: Daniel Wolfe
film profile]. The film was programmed during the Directors’ Fortnight. This piece of work, whose screenplay was co-written by brother Matthew, holds something quintessential: just like in The Selfish Giant [+see also:
interview: Clio Barnard
interview: Clio Barnard
film profile] by Clio Barnard, which was presented last year at Cannes in the same section, the film takes on the shape of a tragic story (and is guided by the voice of an outside narrator) and puts together elements which illustrate the huge beauty and delicacy of human feelings together with sinister landscapes (in this case the infinite and bare moors of Yorkshire, of which the film underlines the desolation), where an almost inconceivable inhumanity is expressed.
But with its Nordic and sometimes Scottish accent (in the case of Aaron’s character, who is in love with one of the story’s main characters), which is reminiscent of British social films, Wolfe’s film – as gloomy as Mike Leigh’s gloomiest – also inspires itself from Guy Ritchie in its way of gathering a cast of dark characters (so different that it is sometimes difficult to know where one is) and Ben Wheatley with his violent streak.
The background narrator and the dialogues leave no doubt: just like the on-going mixes of gin, codeine drugs and other drinks, which people in the film seem to constantly be ingesting (in social cinema from two decades ago in Britain, even the hardest of characters said yes to a cup of tea), the film promises to deliver nothing good. For the couple that will take the story’s centre stage - Aaron who does little except for live in a caravan and Laila who fights to escape her Pakistani father – the film’s events will only ever end badly.
But beyond their grey and oppressive lives, Aaron and Laila are touching as they navigate through the primitive landscapes of Yorkshire, and when the hairdresser reminisces about her childhood – a moment when her father still tenderly gave her nicknames. But after confusing initial few scenes, the story gives way to tragic events, which will condemn the lovers and end in a nocturnal manhunt. Laila’s father has sent her brother Zaheer on their traces.
The cruelty of Catch Me Daddy is precisely there. In the superimposing of the most fascinating of human aspects, with odious, unthinkable situations. These fleeting moments transpire not only in the exchange between the young couple, but also in scenes such as the one with the milkshake salesman or the one where we see Laila’s father hug a child wearing pink (just like he must have done years before when his older daughter was not yet his fugitive). The second disturbing ones populate the entire film, culminating in a breath-taking finale.
(Translated from French)