I, Daniel Blake is the latest film from ‘kitchen-sink’ legend Ken Loach, and it took the country by storm. At the age of 80, Loach has had plenty of experience in depicting the darker side of British life and his socialist views. I, Daniel Blake is particularly relevant due to the political climate of today and the austerity measures sweeping the UK – and being the recipient of the Palme D’or at Cannes in 2016 confirms this film’s resonance across cultures, not just in Britain.
Starring Dave Johns as the eponymous character, I, Daniel Blake is a stark drama following Blake who is denied employment and support allowance despite being deemed unfit to work by his doctor due to a recent heart attack. After the loss of his wife and his job, Blake set out to redeem any dignity that remains in his life, but is harshly denied this by the unjust welfare system. He is forced to apply for Job Seeker’s Allowance to gain any form of income but is unable to attend any interviews or take any work due to his ill-health. Being labelled as lazy and a time-waster forces Blake down an undignified road to poverty. Befriending Katie, a young single mother new to the city, his last hope is to help provide her and her children with a better life.
If you have not seen a Ken Loach film before, you can expect a large dose of realism, and an almost documentative feel. He prides himself on covering real issues in society and the problems they cause, and he doesn’t shy away from telling it how it is, even if it angers others. Loach is a true cinematic activist, and I, Daniel Blake is one of the best examples of this.
With some difficult to watch and heart-breaking moments, emotions are high throughout. Painting a picture to those who are either ignorant and/or unaware of the reality of the most vulnerable in our community, but who try their best to do something to better their lives, it hits you right where it hurts. It may cause anger in some (and hopefully shame in others who hold the political power to change it), but this comes down to ignorance and the inability to believe that some have no control over the outcome of their position. It depicts the lengths that people will go to help others, even while they’re facing immense struggles themselves.
Film activism is a problematic art and is difficult to master, but Loach pulls it off with finesse. He creates a story from tough subject matter, adds some humour to it and created a large amount of buzz with the way he distributed and exhibited the film. Graffiti popped up in cities around the country with accompanying free screenings, showing this was a film for the people and not one to generate an income.
With an understated beauty that manages to hit you hard, I, Daniel Blake is an absolute triumph. With the addition of unknown actors, it really pulls you in and it feels completely real. This is not exactly enjoyable viewing – but more like mandatory viewing. It’s a fantastic film that conveys an undeniable message and is a must for anyone who is hopeful and active in bettering society.
We give I, Daniel Blake 5 stars. It is kitchen sink drama at its absolute finest and most vulnerable.
I, Daniel Blake is out now on DVD & Blu-Ray.