Tom and his young daughter Amy are quarantined together in their home, the result of living in a post-antibiotic world where diseases have become treatment-resistant and antibiotics have failed.
Though she knows that she must avoid anything from the outside during a particularly lethal pandemic, Amy is still a young girl and longs for some semblance of normalcy. But when she gets sick, Tom has a difficult decision to make: give her up to the authorities, who will take her away, or risk getting infected himself.
Written and directed by Paul Cooke and Dominic Rees-Roberts, this drama has a premise worthy of science fiction. But with its attention to emotion and relationship and its beautiful evocation of the bond between parent and child, it’s also a compelling family drama about loyalty and love in the face of even the direst of circumstances.
The craftsmanship in particular prizes a closely held intimacy and attention, staying close within the domestic sphere of the family. The writing focuses exclusively on the father and his daughter, tracing their close bond, and is brought to life by understated yet profoundly moving performances by actors Lollie McKenzie and Henry Douthwaite as Amy and Tom.
The action is situated entirely around the house, and is shot with a muted, cool light and naturalistic camerawork that captures both a sense of subtle but chilling isolation and the fragile tenderness of a family home. As a result, the world has a feel of hushed suspension that seems almost idyllic at times — until viewers realize it’s because so many people that populated the world are gone silent because of death, quarantine and illness.
But even in the midst of pandemics, children get restless and parents become overprotective, and a natural conflict between them becomes raised to dangerous stakes. Once Tom realizes Amy has been infected, he is put in a terrible position as a father and a human being, and those dangerous stakes lead to a decision that will be tragic, no matter how it plays out.
It’s impossible to watch “Catch” and not think about today’s own epidemics. Made in consultation with scientists and doctors who are experts in the subject of antibiotic resistance, the short credibly brings to life a public health threat that is all too real in today’s world, with a lucid, intelligent sense of craft and performance that keep it from becoming a well-meaning but overly earnest “issue of the week” movie.
But in the midst of talk of diseases, medicines and vaccines, “Catch” reminds us that sometimes abstract ideas of science have deeply human consequences and resonance. Through its moving and heartwrenching narrative, it evokes just how intimately and emotionally these public news issues can affect us — and just how powerful familial love can be, making difficult choices even more heart-rending and reminding us just what is at stake.