TRIBECA 2021: ‘Catch the Fair One’ Is a Harrowing and Heart-Pounding Thriller

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Catch the Fair One

Kali “K.O. Mequinonoag” Reis is a boxing world champion in two weight classes, advocate for Native rights, activist for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW) movement, and now, writer, actress, and breakout star. Her debut performance in Josef Kubota Wladyka’s harrowing Catch the Fair One is a complete knockout and one of 2021’s best.

Reis plays Kaylee, a Native American boxer who enlists herself in a women trafficking ring to search for her kidnapped sister. On the surface, a revenge thriller, Catch the Fair One, explores the legacy of violence left behind by colonialism and the white man’s views on Native women.

The story,  co-written by Wladyka and Reis, handles topics very close to the boxer’s heart. Being a half-Cape Verdean mixed Indigenous woman, Reis has had to fight against racial and cultural issues throughout her life and career. She is also known for her work with MMIW in helping Native women fight against violence.

This is a tough watch, particularly in its first half when Kaylee has just infiltrated the prostitution ring. With the aid of an excellent anxiety-inducing score by Nathan Halpern and a heart-pounding pace, the movie becomes a psychological test in which the main character’s vulnerability at the hands of human scum creates a hole in your stomach.

The development of such a horrific story awakens and squeezes a primal thirst for revenge. Kaylee becomes a vessel of catharsis, whose actions are fully justified to get rid of the human filth that preys on the vulnerable. However, Catch the Fair One sets its sight on an ultra-violent path without taking its eyes off the social struggles at hand. This never becomes just a revenge tale; it’s always a heart-wrenching cry of frustration created from years and years of abuse.

The line “Nobody’s looking for her because nobody cares” is thrown halfway through the film to great effect. This single piece of urgent dialogue encompasses the brutality of our societies and their patriarchal legacy. This is a story that goes beyond borders. I live in Mexico, a country going through a femicide crisis, a country where the government seems indifferent to women being murdered with total impunity. Catch the Fair One becomes a powerful and painful statement against this dismissiveness by giving visibility to the invisible. 

Along the way, we encounter Linda (Tiffany Chu), an abused woman married to a monster. In her character, we find the terror of entrapment and a vessel of guilt that proposes the question: what to do when you live in a hell that is also enabling hell for so many innocents? Can you do anything about it? The relationship between Linda and Kaylee is a fascinating yet slightly undercooked aspect of the film.

Reis is astonishing in the main role. Her physical presence is imposing, with pierced cheeks and arms covered in tattoos, which helps create chilling action scenes. But the character works because of the abundant vulnerability Reis displays; from the very first minutes, it’s clear that this woman is carrying a heavy emotional burden. When taking a photo with a fan, she doesn’t feel comfortable. There is guilt, sorrow, and anguish in her eyes. These same attributes shape Kaylee into a no-nonsense desperate woman capable of anything to reach her goal. Big props should also go to director Wladyka for sticking with a first-time performer.

The cinematography of Ross Giardina is powerful and intimate. You are with Kaylee every step of the way, feeling her despair while navigating through dark natural landscapes and grimy locations. This is a ruthless world, reigned by blue and black colors; immersing into it is like taking an ice bath. You can feel the cold of Kaylee’s world in your bones. 

Although Catch the Fair One seems to wrap up too unexpectedly, the spiritual finale is raw and authentic. This is an ending closer to real-life because it’s not common to have fairy tales and satisfying conclusions when talking about our grim reality. It’s a reality in which violence is the norm, and colonialism and patriarchy want us to forget about the oppressed, the abused, the disappeared, and the slaughtered. Wladyka crafted an outstanding and harrowing piece of work that cries for all of them while addressing the dark truths of impunity and exclusion.

Catch the Fair One had its World Premiere at Tribeca 2021.


Catch the Fair One
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Although Catch the Fair One seems to wrap up too unexpectedly, the spiritual finale is raw and authentic. This is an ending closer to real-life because it’s not common to have fairy tales and satisfying conclusions when talking about our grim reality. It’s a reality in which violence is the norm, and colonialism and patriarchy want us to forget about the oppressed, the abused, the disappeared, and the slaughtered. Wladyka crafted an outstanding and harrowing piece of work that cries for all of them while addressing the dark truths of impunity and exclusion.