I, Daniel Blake is another urgent work from brilliant British director Ken Loach. This title now becomes an integral part of the filmmaker’s mandatory ‘social realism’ film list, which also includes Riff Raff, Ladybird Ladybird, My Name is Joe, and The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
Loach bites, leaving a bubbly red mark in our consciences as he keenly addresses the social problems inherent to a dysfunctional, technological world, still incapable of tossing out bureaucracy to better serve those in need of help. The irony of the film dwells exactly here… so modern, so inefficient.
The film, written by Loach’s habitual associate Paul Laverty, got wider reputation after winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes and the Audience Award at Locarno, Stockholm, and San Sebastian Festivals.
“Loach’s raw and ultra-realistic approach comes loaded with strong messages and remains a fundamental weapon to denounce the troubles of our world.”
Dave Johns is Daniel Blake, a hard-working 59-year-old carpenter from Newcastle who is aware he can’t work no more after having suffered a major heart attack. Now facing a serious heart condition, Daniel needs the help of the State. However, applying for the sickness benefit program becomes a nightmare populated by frustrating phone calls, moronic obligations, and difficult form fill-outs.
Despite facing eviction and poverty, Daniel still finds the time to help Katie Morgan (Hayley Squires), a single mother he met at the Job Centre. She has just arrived in town and keeps struggling with a similar predicament that prevents her to feed her children properly. This character heavily increases the dramatic side of the story and it’s not without sorry that we observe the sad circumstances that impulsively drive her to shoplift and make other tough decisions in order to survive.
Loach’s raw and ultra-realistic approach comes loaded with strong messages and remains a fundamental weapon to denounce the troubles of our world. The scenes are mounted in such a compelling way that speaks volumes. Indeed, and throughout his solid career, this director never needed special effects or modern techniques to create a powerful film. He just focuses on simple characters, which we can easily identify ourselves with, and exposes their plausible problems with heart and emotion.
“…a tragic, moving, not to mention infuriating portrait of a decaying society.”
Dave Johns, most known for his stand-up comedy skills and television appearances, bestows a terrific acting over a tight script, well seconded by the emergent Squires, who from now on should see her career take off.
I, Daniel Blake is a tragic, moving, not to mention infuriating portrait of a decaying society. Its account, warmly humane on one side and embarrassingly sad on the other, has the ultimate goal of emphasizing the importance of solidarity, justice, human rights, and community support. It makes even more sense when we think about the doubtful direction the world is taking.
To care, or not to care, that is the question!
I, Daniel Blake (2016) Written by Paul Laverty. Directed by Ken Loach. Starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Sharon Percy.
9 out of 10