Unapologetically Political, Openly Moral
After Ken Loach’s latest film “I, Daniel Blake” (2016) took home themost prestigious film award of the year, Palme d’Or at Cannes earlierthis summer, there has been a lot of discussion or at leastanticipation of discussion on the film. The Guardian, for one,published a long article where people from all walks of life sharedtheir differing opinions on the film. As a fierce story of socialrelevance, telling about an ailing carpenter whose life goes to piecesin the vast sea of bureaucracy, “I, Daniel Blake” is bound to becriticized for being didactic and demagogic as it hits the commercialscreens. Some will fall in love with the film for its honestauthenticity, while others will be put off by its unapologeticdirectness.
The film begins with the title character, Daniel Blake going through anassessment in the unemployment office after his doctor has deemed himunfit for work due to a heart condition. Unfortunately, Daniel ends upin a paradoxical position, the likes which Kafka could have devised,where he is not concerned unhealthy enough to apply for sicknessbenefit and has to therefore apply for job seeker’s allowance, coercinghim into a pointless cycle of searching for jobs he cannot really take.In the middle of this absurd jungle of gray offices and red tapes,Daniel befriends Katie, a single mother of two in a similar situation.Daniel’s cardinal sin in the bureaucratic world is his refusal to playby its rules, to fake and to pull the strings where needed.
Loach is known for his simplicity in both style and narrative withoutever coming close to minimalism. His simplicity is of a different kind,a simplicity of the heart on the level of the subject matter which isoften social by nature. This simplicity gives room for the unfolding ofstory and character in their natural state which is of the utmostimportance for Loach’s intentions. At times warm and funny, at othersraw and brutal, the story of “I, Daniel Blake” is hard to be dismissedfor its authenticity. It will likely speak to most people as do thegreat realist novels of the 19th century. It is a simple voice withreal thought and emotion behind it, saying something of relevance,straight out and loud. While the title of the film might pave way forquasi-libertarian interpretations of Loach’s critique of the socialbenefits system, his intentions could not be clearer to those who haveseen the film. The titular character is merely someone to carry thetorch of solidarity; to Loach and others, he represents a mass ofmillions. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote that the film”intervenes in the messy, ugly world of poverty with the secularintention of making us see that it really is happening, and in aprosperous nation.” This is the simplicity which gives Loach’s cinemaits moral aura.
Although many may feel put off by the film’s direct social message andstrong moral pathos, which can feel didactic or even demagogic attimes, and it will not find its dearest fan in yours truly either, Ithink the film deserves acclaim for its integrity. The film does nothide its rhetoric or its message. After all, its “leftist agitation”may not be stranger than the ideology of upper middle class family lifepropagated by contemporary popular culture. The way I see it, “I,Daniel Blake” is more a personal expression of worry and concern ratherthan manufactured propaganda with an impersonal agenda. At worst thefilm might be preachy or sentimental, but at best it is the mostauthentic thing Ken Loach has done since “My Name Is Joe” (1998), aparallel work in the truest sense of the word. To put it bluntly, I amglad that “Jimmy’s Hall” (2014) did not end up being the legacy Loachleft for cinema; but “I, Daniel Blake” could very well be just that.
A heartwrenching look at the British benefits system...
A heartwrenching look at the British benefits system which presents areal juxtaposition to the ubiquitous ‘Benefits Street’, ‘Daily Mail’scroungers’ headlines-type culture that we’ve become so accustomed to.
‘I, Daniel Blake’ follows the lives of Daniel and Katie who, althoughfrom very different backgrounds both appear to be suffering similarfates at the hands of The State.
With believable, real characters, excellent acting and an engagingplot, the film really draws you in, and leaves you feeling grateful forwhat you have. Yes it clearly has a political message and no it won’tbe for everyone but it certainly can’t be knocked. Better and moreimportant than many of the so called ‘blockbusters’ we’ll see thisyear.
Gritty but compulsive
I left the cinema with a lot to think about after viewing this film. Agritty and realistic drama portraying the processes and outcomes ofclaimants caught up in today’s benefit system, sometimes with dreadfuloutcomes.
Every public servant, politician and voluntary sector worker should beexpected to watch this film. A lot of it is not easy viewing, andcertainly not suitable for a fun night out, but the message it givesabout today’s society is compelling.
I think a message should be included on-screen but before the creditssuggesting people contact the Citizens’ Advice Bureau if they areexperiencing any of the issues raised in the film.
Hard Hitting Real Acting
This film is hard hitting and heart wrenching, tears through and cameout crying.
A try to replicate how the authorities are treating the venerable inthe face of devastation. It is heart wrenching. It might have beenbased what has happened to a few in the recent past. I think PaulLaverty took a leaf out of the records and wrote the strip and KenLoach put it on screen in the best possible way.
Agree with other reviewer A must see film by not just the generalpublic but the Authorities to waken them up and hit them hard.
At the end at least in our screening there were applause ofappreciation to Ken to show how well he has done to make this look soreal.
From Britain to China, workers' very own solidarity is their social security
This movie caught me by my heart, like every other piece by Laverty-Loach cooperation. It is not a thriller, there are no twists, no peaksof emotions. It shows the naked reality of our everyday lives with itsgreat pains and humor at the same time. But, the “banality” of thesegreat pains is the strength of the movie, it shows how every encounterwith the system is the time we face the reality of the system and lookfor someone who will give a hand us to survive it. Of course, this ismostly valid for the working class. The film softly depicts that it isnot a socialist propaganda, because when truly shown the reality itselfunveils as a socialist propaganda.
But the film is not another documentaristic presentation of theeveryday life of a worker, as it also shows how to cope with all thesewe experience. It is the formation of a solidarity with others like us,the woman in the queue, the Chinese in the factory, the black in thewarehouse, the clerk at the office… We are already connected, evenwith those in other continents. Once we see someone shouting with hiswriting on the wall, we should shout with him with our voice. If one ofthem writes a letter, another should spread its word.
A shot in the head of the Britain’s social security system, a greatcall for solidarity.
Not one of Loach's best efforts
Daniel Blake (Dave Johns), a 59-year old heart attack victim who istrying to collect welfare in the city of Newcastle, England comes upagainst a dehumanizing system that seems to be out to thwart him atevery step of the process in I, Daniel Blake, British director KenLoach and his long time scriptwriter Ken Laverty’s latestcollaboration. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes FilmFestival, the film has a social conscience and does not hesitate topull out all the emotional stops, but is unfortunately undercut by anexcessive amount of speech making, contrived situations, andsentimentality. Performed by British stand-up comedian Dave Johns, thefilm is guaranteed to bring laughter, tears, and also anger at thesystem’s coldhearted bureaucrats who know about rules and regulationsbut not so much about people’s needs.
The film opens with a black screen. Slowly, we begin to hear a manbeing interviewed by a woman who identifies herself as a health-careprofessional. Having to answer lame questions about his cognitiveabilities and motor skills but nothing about his heart, Dan tells theinterviewer, “We’re getting further and further away from my heart.” Hehas been told by his doctor that he is not ready to go back to work andhas applied for an Employment and Support Allowance, a stipend paid tothose unable to work because of a disability. Unfortunately, thegovernment concludes that he is fit for work, forcing him to appeal tothe “decision maker” to change the ruling.
Forced to jump through a set of hoops just to earn the right to appeal,Dan must prove that he has spent 35 hours a week looking for work.Applying for Jobseeker’s Allowance and not being computer savvy, he hasto seek help just to learn how to use a mouse. When he meets Katie(Hayley Squires), a young single mother with two small children (BrianaShann and Dylan Phillip McKiernan) who has just come from London and isin need of assistance, the story becomes about people working togetherto provide mutual support in dealing with a faceless bureaucracy.
Dan and Katie become friends with Dan offering moral support and usinghis carpenter skills to make her flat more livable. Katie looks forwork as a cleaner, sacrifices food to make sure her children are fed,and is even forced to work briefly as a call girl. One of the mostheartbreaking scenes occurs at a visit to the local Food Bank whenKatie has a breakdown after opening and eating a can of baked beans,but both are resilient and determined not to let the system crush them.
I, Daniel Blake, without question, comes from a good place and Blakecaptures our allegiance with his grumpy determination, kindness andconcern for others, but there is little room here for nuance, balance,or objectivity. The film exists to make a point and everything else issubordinate to that. Though the performances are first-rate and Johnshas perfect comic timing, I, Daniel Blake is not, in my view, one ofLoach’s better efforts.
A wake up call for Tory Britain. Brilliantly satirises our hateful benefits system.
Ken Loach does it again.
If you know Ken Loach (and importantly his writing partner PaulLaverty) you’ll know I, Daniel Blake.
It’s a nightmare.
A total nightmare.
Life on poverty line Britain that is.
And Loach hammers this home with gusto.
He chooses Newcastle as his latest political landscape, partly because”it’s grim up North” but also because, in my experience, Geordies arethe salt of the earth; kind, lovable folks. And this is the mainemotional driver of this nightmare.
Daniel Blake is caught in a trap.
A bureaucratic hell populated by “computer says no” mini Hitlersoccupying mainly minor roles in the Jobseeker hell that is ToryBritain. In a bid to out ‘scroungers’ the system has eaten itself andis spitting out vulnerable pitiful fodder like Daniel (played deeplysympathetically by comedian Dave Johns. He’ll never win an Oscar butthis part was made for him) and the lovable but deeply vulnerable Katie(played equally well by Hayley Squires – Call the Midwife).
He’s had a heart attack and his doctors say he can’t work but theBenefits Police say he has to go on jobseeker allowance and look forwork or lose all entitlement to any money AT ALL.
She’s moved from a women’s hostel in London because she can’t afford aflat in London with her two children (one slightly miscast as a ratherposh daughter, Daisy). She’s having the same problems, only hers startfrom a tinpot Hitler chucking her out of the Job Centre for being latefor her appointment.
They bond. He helps her. She helps him. It’s grim but deeply affecting.We then follow their shared struggle.
In many ways this movie is like a Ken Loach Primer. It has all hisusual trademarks and the ‘working class people are good’ message islaid on way too thickly.
And it’s a big but they are in a profoundly believable real-life dramaand I found myself in tears (of collective shame?) three times duringit.
It certainly makes the reality of food banks in Britain very, verymeaningful. I won’t pass a collection point again if my conscienceholds up.
Everything that is good about Loach is in this film. In parts it’slaugh out loud funny (but it’s laughs of derision at our State). Inparts it’s deeply moving, even though some of the plot is verging onthe ridiculous.
But who cares. Ken Loach holds a mirror up to our frankly DISGUSTINGsociety and mocks it.
But he mocks it with the most vicious of venom.
It feels real. Really real.
It’s a must see.
A raw and honest look at ow the British system fails it's people
Ken Loach is a name I always recognise but then struggle to rememberany of his work. I think, “ah good, it’s by Ken Loach” and then “what’she done again? Oh Kes!” But Kes was 47 years ago and shamefully, I’mnot familiar with any of his films since then. One conclusion from thisrealisation is that Loach has a strong reputation as a filmmaker andthis was my long awaited reunion.
We follow Daniel Blake, a middle-aged carpenter who’s taken a fewrecent knocks, one of which is suffering a heart-attack and deemed notable to return to work. It’s a position no one would want to be in,forced to sacrifice your own health or lose everything you have workedso hard for.
We witness the hurdles that seem purposely put there to hinderpayments, speaking from personal experience I can relate to thissituation to a degree. How are people such as Daniel Blake suppose tosurvive, or better still, have a good life they are suppose to be ableto live.
It’s a harsh reality on how parts of the British system fails it’speople and proof that there’s no real incentive to do things by thebook. Having been in a similar situation myself, skirting theunemployment line getting advise from people who have no ambitious orunderstanding of what I wanted to do.
Taking this on a more personal level, I quit a stressful position lastyear in the hopes of pursuing my own dream of being an artist andwriter. Having to sign agreement that I would spend a number of hourstrying to find work and having to provide evidence of doing so eachfortnight would grant me the universal credit that I never actuallyreceived. I actually had a good case worker, as everyplace of work hasgood people, but equally there are those that can’t see beyond, muchlike what is portrayed in this story. Though, instead of supporting mein trying to be something I both enjoy and apparently good at, theyattempted to find me similar stressful jobs that I left for my ownsanity, wanting to place me back amongst the wolves.
Dave Johns is exceptional as Daniel Blake, emitting the boilingfrustrations of the soul- destroying turn of events, right to the veryend. Hayley Squires’ Katie is short of brilliant too, displaying thetremendous pressure when faced with these kind of tribulations. Though,the acting from the rest of the supporting cast is less desirable, it’sforgivable.
It’s a raw, honest and emotional look at the suffering and poor way oflife some unfortunate people have to contend with in Great Britain.It’s compelling, invoking and upsetting, showing the great lengths andrisks people go through in order to maintain their self dignity. It’scertainly a film that boasts Loach’s credibility.
Running Time: 8 The Cast: 7 Performance: 7 Direction: 7 Story: 8Script: 8 Creativity: 8 Soundtrack: 6 Job Description: 10 The ExtraBonus Points: 10 for the difficult subject matter and perfectportrayal. Would I buy the Bluray?: yes
Art reflects Life?
I have just watched this film and felt I had to add my voice to otherswho have rated it.
Ken Loach has nailed it again.
While many came in to see it with the usual cinema food that can be anoisy distraction as the film progressed you could have heard a pindrop.
As the credits started to roll I started to applaud, others joined in.I have never been to see a film where I felt this was necessary.
Sadly the film showed how dysfunctional the systems meant to supportare failing.
This film should mandatory for all in authority and all M.P.s andmembers of the House of Lords to view.
Tears, and laughter, but mainly tears - angry tears.
I watched ‘I Daniel Blake’ a few hours ago in Prestatyn Scala withabout twenty others. Others have covered the details so I’ll justrecord my feelings. Anger, tears, laughter, more tears more anger. Itis as though the half century between “Cathy Come Home” and this neverhappened. The acting removes any barrier between players and audience,we all felt in the scene, we all felt we were part of their background.Seeing actor’s names against these characters on the end credits wasalmost a shock. The cast were experienced as people not actors playingpeople. Loach manages to multiply the grim Northern ethos by neverfilming on a sunny day, guaranteeing grey skies throughout the movie.The most colourful scene was almost an accident – near a brothel abrick wall has more colour in it than the rest of the film! Amasterpiece: spontaneous applause at the end is such a rare thing in acinema.
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