From acclaimed director Ken Loach comes this astonishing story of triumph and adversity in modern day Britain. Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) has worked as a joiner for most of his life in Newcastle. Now, for the first time ever, he needs help from the State. He crosses paths with single mother Katie (Hayley Squires) who is battling to keep her two young children fed. Daniel and Katie find themselves in a no-man's land, striving to pull themselves out of the welfare bureaucracy of modern day Britain.
A very realistic movie
- I, Daniel Blake review by BE
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A very well crafted movie from Ken Loach. Not so much a story but more an indictment of our benefit system and its derogatory effect on the bona fide claimants that have a need to access it. Some funny moments but overall, a serious piece of film work. Seamless acting throughout and an empathetic representation of intransigent bureaucracy.
I, Daniel Blake is a satirical look (sprinkled with notes of realism) at Britain’s social welfare system (or whole bureaucracy for that matter) that shows how easy for everyone is to lose their social status from king to pauper in mere months, if not days. Right there at the helm is renowned director Ken Loach (The Angels' Share, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Kes), whose unrelenting unwillingness to accept poor social norms fueled his imagination toward building a world that is believable as much as it is funny. For some, his direct approach would come as off-putting and preachy, but for others: it’s scenery for one’s inner Kafka to ponder upon for years to come.
The film starts with Daniel Blake, who is diagnosed with a heart condition that renders him incapable of doing regular work (as appointed by the doctor’s office). But Daniel’s condition is not serious enough so that he can apply for sickness benefits; therefore: Daniel Blake enters a Kafkaesque scenario where the only way out is not to play at all.
To convey administrative paradoxes, director Loch uses subtle clues scattered throughout the film which we as the audience, are supposed to uncover as the story intertwines further into several branches of interconnected vicissitudes. These are often funny to crack a chuckle or two when things go south in Blake’s endeavors, but can also be harsh and raw when the reality of it all hits our titular character over the head.
At times, we’re lead to believe that the story of certain Daniel Blake is a classical tragedy with no outs; other times, we’re full with motivation and physically point fingers and offer solutions to our main protagonist – seemingly unaware that cinema is a one way medium (or so we are told). To this extent, I, Daniel Blake is engaging, witty and inclusive: everyone in a point of their lives was mirroring what Daniel Blake felt throughout. And it was mostly bitterness, helplessness and empathy.
With that explained, one can easily presume and presuppose traits which Ken Loach doesn’t even graze their surface to start with, such as neo-libertarian policies that allow for everything to happen in accordance with an unlimited recourse policy; or a pseudo-social economy where everyone should be given the right to receive an income regardless of their contribution to society. In a way: be wary of such false propagators that add little to nothing to the overall social-economic commentary as it exists today.
To summarize: I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach is a feature that deserves one’s attention - even when such attention is limited to couple of hours a day. For you know how they say – better safe than sorry, or in the case of Daniel – better save than don’t be able to retire when all social hell breaks loose.