I, Daniel Blake

Thursday 30 March 2017
Ken Loach | UK, 2016 | 100 mins | Rated 15    

“They’ll fuck you around, make it as miserable as possible – that’s the plan.”

Having suffered a heart attack at work, 59-year-old Geordie joiner Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) has been instructed by doctors to rest. For the first time in his life he needs help from the state, yet since he is able to walk 50 metres and “raise either arm as if to put something in your top pocket”, he is deemed ineligible for employment and support allowance. Instead he must apply for jobseeker’s allowance, attend pointless CV workshops and pound the pavements in search of nonexistent jobs that he can’t take anyway.

Meanwhile, single mother-of-two Katie (Hayley Squires) is similarly being given the runaround. Daniel takes her under his wing after she’s rehoused hundreds of miles from her friends and family in London after spending two years in a hostel. Both are doing all they can to make the best of a bleak situation, retaining their hope and dignity in the face of insurmountable odds. Yet both are falling through the cracks of a cruel system that pushes those caught up in its cogs to breaking point.

Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winning film is on one level a polemical indictment of a faceless benefits bureaucracy that strips claimants of their humanity by reducing them to mere numbers. On another, it is a celebration of the decency and kinship of (extra)ordinary people who look out for each other when the state abandons its duty of care. With a brilliantly insightful script from Paul Laverty, I, Daniel Blake is a gut-wrenching tragicomic drama that will stay with you long after leaving the cinema.

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