Monday, August 03, 2015

Catch Me Daddy: Honor Crimes in West Yorkshire

Provincial West Yorkshire is a tough area to find work, but it ought to be the perfect spot to lay low. Unfortunately, it is not far enough off the grid for one Pakistani woman and her Scots boyfriend. When discovered by her family and its hired thugs, they have no other options except desperate flight in Daniel & Matthew Wolfe’s Catch Me Daddy (trailer here), which opens this Friday in metro Los Angeles.

Maybe Aaron is not the world’s greatest catch, but you cannot question his willingness to commit. By continuing his relationship with Laila, he is knowingly risking his life. As the film opens, he is far stricter when it comes to security than the somewhat in-denial Laila. Of course, his concerns will be vindicated when her brother Zaheer catches her flat-footed in their trailer. She barely escapes in the subsequent struggle, rendezvousing with Aaron in town. Her father’s associates and a pair of Anglo strong arm men follow hot on their heels, looking for any weakness they might exploit.

Rational parents simply endure it as best they can when their daughters get involved with disappointing boyfriends, whereas Muslim fundamentalists, like Laila’s restauranteur father, plot to murder their daughters and their forbidden significant others. These are called “honor crimes,” but there is nothing honorable about them. Although systemically under-reported, the number of recently recorded honor crimes committed in the UK is significant enough for even the BBC to take notice. Not surprisingly, Catch touched a bit of a nerve with British audiences, even though the Wolfe Brothers scrub the film of any references to Islam, leaving viewers with the impression this must be some sort of dark manifestation of Punjabi culture.

On the other hand, the warts-and-all depictions of Laila and Aaron are shrewdly effective. Hardly idealized martyrs for pluralistic tolerance, they are realistically messy and flawed, which is precisely why they do not deserve what lies in store for them. Sameena Jabeen Ahmed’s lead performance is quite remarkable. At times she is almost childlike, yet she must deal with some absolutely horrific realities. As her less showy partner, Connor McCarron does yeoman work, keeping their relationship and the film completely grounded. Gary Lewis also adds some potent vinegar to the film, keeping the audience off balance with his portrayal of Tony the cocaine addicted ruffian, who passes for the voice of reason amongst Laila’s pursuers.

Catch is a strange film, in that it wants to spotlight the prevalence of honor crimes, but it does not want to address why they happen. Yet, it is hard to completely sweep the 800 pound gorilla under the rug. Indeed, the implications of Laila’s situation speak for themselves, thanks to some extraordinary performances.

It is all wrapped up in a grittily striking package, thanks in large measure to Robbie Ryan, who has already amassed a filmography that suggests he will be one of the few cinematographers whose work will become the stuff of future retrospectives. Catch just might be his best film to date (or at least the equal of Wuthering Heights). He vividly captures the desolation of the Yorkshire moors evoking a sense of moodier, revisionist westerns. It is an aesthetically severe film, but it has considerable merit and great urgency. Highly recommended overall, Catch Me Daddy opens this Friday (8/7) in LA (Beverly Hills) at the Laemmle Music Box and it screens this Saturday (8/8) in Williamsburg at Videology. Also note, a VOD release is scheduled for 9/1 from Oscilloscope Laboratories.