Catch Me Daddy would be better titled Malick Is My Mentor, if only for its embarrassing opening minutes, which play as blank parody given the use of abstract voiceover, drifting tracking shots through open terrain, and an infatuation with still life in nature, excepting a cut to Tony (Gary Lewis), who does a line of cocaine before exiting his middle-of-nowhere trailer home. As for who any of these characters are, first-time feature filmmakers Daniel and Matthew Wolfe employ a deliberately restrictive mission narrative, where the actual premise of the film isn’t revealed until around the midway point. At that juncture, it’s clear that two different sets of men have been seeking to find Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed), a Pakistani runaway hiding out in West Yorkshire with Aaron (Connor McCarron), where the couple seemingly do little more than smoke pot and dance to happy songs. How ironic, then, that they should find themselves in a laughably bleak and shallowly pessimistic milieu, where any bright or positive beat is inserted merely to make the impending, horrific reversal all the more devastating and shocking.
Sensibility is everything in a work where filmmakers explore difficult subject matter (here: honor killings), especially if the route to said issue is indirect and obtuse as it is here. Unfortunately, the Wolfes thrive on the most obviously “dark” material, with insert shots of someone crushing pills juxtaposed with a man holding a baby or a woman smiling. Little light-up butterflies adorn the walls of Laila and Aaron’s flat, which the film glimpses only out of a desire to see just how dastardly it can become, since it’s clear from the start that the couple is simply being set up as soon-to-be mincemeat fodder for a gaggle of hitmen and bounty hunters who blast rap tracks while casually calling Zaheer (Ali Ahmed), Laila’s brother, a “sister-fucker,” among other similarly juvenile ploys in the filmmakers’ bids for shock value.
It can’t be stressed enough that this material is not inherently repugnant, but that the Wolfes are only interested in highlighting its most lascivious aspects for little more than torture-driven kicks. When one hoodlum says to a kid, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” the filmmakers aren’t interested in any kind of answer; it’s deployed as a rhetorical device, to hatchet home how hopeless the scenario is for all involved. Thus, the film is insistent that these characters cannot be remedied, though the filmmakers make absolutely no attempt to diagnose or even portray larger socio-economic circumstances. This is all insular, psychotic bro time, where interest in Laila’s dire fate is eclipsed by a bloodlust that finally comes when one character literally has his head bashed in; sure enough, the Wolfes can’t help but linger on the final death blow, where spurting blood surely stands in for absent ejaculate.
Were Catch Me Daddy hip to any of these sex and violence overlaps, the film could at least be written off as a failed attempt to create a paralleling of masculine desire as it conflicts with feminine autonomy. Nothing of this order materializes, but neither does much of anything else, as the film plods from one gruesome moment to the next, as if its mere aversion to optimism constitutes a philosophy. This is a staggering deluded film, one so seemingly certain of its own audacity and importance that it even apes the title font used in There Will Be Blood, implying a kinship with that film’s sense of familial ruin via economic and religious dilapidation simply by virtue of remote thematic proximity.