Review: 'The Catch' (2021) Dir. Matthew Ya-Hsiung Balzer
Fresh from the film festivals of America and making it's UK debut on March 12th at the Manchester Film Festival, 'The Catch' is a slow burning and intense family thriller...
Beth McManus (Winter) flees the big city and returns to her home town on the shores of New England, picking up with her family once more including her brother Bobby (Gallner) and estranged father Tom (Sage).
The McManus family are proud fishermen, running their own business and making a living out on the waters of the New England coast. But Beth isn't here to pick up the mantle of the family business.
Beth reconnects with former lover Dicky (McMenamin) and gets involved in his criminal dealings using the industry as a cover. With danger circling, Beth must decide whether to help Dicky in his money making deals, or protect the small community she calls home...
Much like the 2019 British sleeper-hit Fisherman's Friends, this 2020 American independent film bases it's characters and story in a coastal fishing community, exploring the sights and sounds of trawlermen, fisherman and families who are close knit in both working and surviving. But the comparisons end there! One a romantic-comedy and one a dark drama, 'The Catch' shines a light on those in the community who hide secrets and have dangerous pasts they try to escape. It's not a film that needs big shocks or bangs or pulse-pounding excitement, but one that focuses on family, on choices and on forgotten relationships that are key to fixing a broken past.
Director and writer Matthew Ya-Hsiung Balzer taps into the small scale fishing community of New England perfectly, presenting a slice of everyday normalcy and community but overshadowed by a criminal narrative that is more than believable. It's this mix of normal and criminal themes that rest on the shoulder of Katia Winter's Beth, a girl with her own broken and tormented past. Katia is perfect as our fragile Beth, walking a line between wanting to reconnect with her home comforts and shake off the ghosts of being away in the big city for years.
Beth is no angel, that's for sure, and Katia Winter has the talent to let you glimpse into the troubled girl she plays to see what she is wrestling with in terms of morality.
On the other hand, it's immersive seeing the trawling community on screen, with Balzer not shy in using as much authentic locations, people and set designs as possible for a real slice of New England living. Composer Ariel Marx works well in creating an original score that accompanies the themes of the film well, in terms of underlying danger and threat, exciting escapism and peaceful tranquillity that matches what our characters may be experiencing on screen.
Co-stars Bill Sage, Kyle Gallner and James McMenamin revolve around Katia as people involved with Beth's life, both good and bad, and these people are the ones that risk being hurt if she doesn't escape her past. Sage especially as the father has a great side-story of showing the plight of local trawlermen attempting to survey against the larger, more commercial businesses threatening his patch and generations of working the coast.
For an independent thriller, this never loses the taught strings that make it both entertaining and sinister without being overly tongue-in-cheek or dramatic. The tension doesn't stop, especially during the final act, going all the way to it's brilliantly spine-tingling closing frame.
It's a slow burner just over 90mins, but it's the slow, brooding pace of character development and authentic locations that add the real sense of conflict that Beth and her family is facing, and it works because of said authenticity.
An immersive community of trawlermen is the heart to the stories of drug dealing and battling to survive an ever changing world, with great talent bringing it all to life.
'The Catch' is a co-production between Matthew Ya-Hsiung Balzer, Amy Durning and Kierke Panisnick.