If you’re going to make a film set in the North of England, must it be a depressing one? The Wolfe Brothers (Daniel & Matthew) seem to think so. From the moment it begins, their screen debut is ingrained with a perpetually depressing air that’s then amplified by the rancid tone of their substandard script. DoP Robbie Ryan may do everything in his power to make it work from behind the camera, but it turns out that nothing can save Catch Me Daddy from being an abhorrent and ineffectual mess.
It isn’t hard to see who the debutant pair are trying to emulate. The mark of social-realist greats like Leigh and Loach can be seen woven in every available seam of the film’s fabric. At one point we watch as someone practises falconry in what appears to be a nod to Kes. But that, like many other moments, feels like flagrant mimicry. As if the only ideas the Wolfe Brothers have are ones they’ve developed from older, more original works.
The narrative, though it does occasionally try to hint at something greater, is entirely derivative. It takes the form of a raw and gritty chase thriller in which a young Pakistani girl (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) and her layabout English boyfriend (Conor McCarron) try to flee across the Yorkshire Moors while being pursued by a band of thugs who may, or may not have been sent by the girl’s father.
From the very start, it’s a film that feels destined to fail. The lengthy and frustratingly ambiguous opening is practically impenetrable, refusing to offer the audience an opportunity to involve themselves in the characters and their story, meaning that once they are propelled headfirst into an extended chase sequence that makes up nearly all of the film’s second and third act, it’s hard to really care about the action unfolding in front of you.
This extends to the performances. While Ahmed struggles to suit her range with what is the meatiest role, the rest of the cast are consigned to playing villainous cardboard caricatures who lack any sort of personality. Only the ever-reliable Gary Lewis is offered anything close to an interesting character, but even his gruff gangster with a sympathetic streak feels like a stereotype.
The incredible eye of Robbie Ryan also fails to salvage a modicum of interest. Played over with a bizarre soundtrack that has more place in a revisionist western than here, Ryan’s ability to capture sparse gorgeous beauty of the Moors and underpin them with a grey, grim, ominous feel should be the perfect tool to form a potent and powerful backdrop on which to tell this tale of vindictive viciousness. All it does, however, is fuel the fire of the Wolfe Brothers’ mantra – that the North is a horrible, horrible place… and we get it already!