Sameena Jabeen Ahmed as Laila in Catch Me Daddy (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Sameena Jabeen Ahmed as Laila in Catch Me Daddy (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Directed by Daniel Wolfe
Produced by Hayley Williams and Michael Elliott
Written by Daniel and Matthew Wolfe
Released by Oscillosocpe Laboratories
UK. 111 min. Not rated
Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, Conor McCarron, Ali Ahmad, Barry Nunney, Gary Lewis, and Wasim Zakir

Teenager Laila’s world is candy colored. Her hair is dyed blond and bubblegum pink, her clothes match the rainbow, and she drinks candy flavored milkshakes. Laila is not an ordinary girl, however, and her pastel accouterments cover a dark and troubling life. Director Daniel Wolfe’s Catch Me Daddy is an unmistakably powerful first feature film, which juxtaposes Laila’s brightly colored persona with a shadowy tale set on the windy Yorkshire Moors. Race, drugs, gangsters, and postindustrial Britain all play a role in a story, which, at its heart, is about the relationship between father and daughter.

Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) has run away from home, and she’s shacking up with her boyfriend, Aaron (Conor McCarron), in a remote trailer. They have a simple, yet very happy life together; she’s working part-time at a hair salon, and he doesn’t do much but drugs. They aren’t making money, but when she comes home from work, they have a great time listening to music and hanging out. Their scenes are interwoven with the oncoming group of gangsters, led by her brother, headed to find Laila and bring her home to father. Her Pakistani family disapproves of her relationship with Aaron and aims to get her back by any means necessary.

Laila’s father and her brother, Zaheer (Ali Ahmad), hire two white hoodlums to help them bring her home. Barry (Barry Nunney) is nothing but a hotheaded thug, and Tony (Gary Lewis) is a cocaine addict along for the ride, though his quiet melancholy suggests he has a larger role to play. The searchers go around asking townsfolk if they’ve seen Laila and Aaron in a tension-building series of interrogations. While Aaron is out grabbing beer, Zaheer catches Laila in the trailer alone. What follows is a suspenseful chase through the moors between Zaheer’s group, Barry and Tony, and Laila and Aaron. As the parties crisscross paths, Catch Me Daddy builds to a violent and enthralling conclusion.

One wouldn’t think it’s possible to mistake the English moors for the American West, but Wolfe manages to create a Western-like atmosphere complete with brooding men and striking violence. The film is visually stunning and juxtaposes images brilliantly: bright and gloomy color, stark landscapes, and run-down buildings. The soundtrack is utilized in similar fashion. Sad cowboy-style folk songs by such singer-songwriters as Jimmy Webb are heard alongside contemporary rappers like Nicki Minaj. While these appositions could result in a fragmented film, Wolfe blends everything into one coherent audio-vision. Laila’s life is torn in two, and the film reflects this accordingly.

Laila’s father, Tariq (Wasim Zakir), looms over the entire film though he doesn’t appear until end. His final scene with Laila is one of the most unsettling I’ve seen in years. It’s Ahmed, though, who carries the film and gives a remarkable performance in her first film role. She portrays Laila as spontaneously playful while dancing to Patti Smith’s “Land” in order to cheer Aaron up in a scene early on. In the harrowing final moments, too, Ahmed is equally engaging. Though the film is pitch-black in its themes, Ahmed and the character of Laila add an endearing innocence.