A review of the latest Ken Loach film “I, Daniel Blake”

British director Ken Loach – now aged 80 – is a film-maker with singular focus and talent. Nobody else would make a work about the benefits system with such a personal style and powerful impact. Like so many of his films, the acting and dialogue are so naturalistic that the work could almost be a documentary.

Daniel Blake is a carpenter in Newcastle who has suffered the twin blows of bereavement and heart disease. He finds himself caught in the cruel benefits trap whereby his doctor judges him unfit for work but he is denied the Employment & Support Allowance, while the state tells him that he is for enough to work but he has neither the online skills to participate in the jobs market or the physical ability to take on a job.

He meets Londoner Katie, mother of two children, who is in a trap of her own. Her mother and friends are in London but she cannot afford to live there and has relocated to the north-east where the vagaries of the benefits system force her to resort to a food bank and worse. These are two souls who are both financially and materially on the precipice. The unlikely pairing of Daniel and Katie, brilliantly played by Dave Johns and Hayley Squires, is the kind heart of this otherwise searing portrayal of modern-day poverty in one of the richest countries of the world.

Like Daniel, a friend of mine went for a medical assessment (which I attended with him), following which he was refused the Employment & Support Allowance. Like Daniel, my friends appealed against the unfair decision. I spoke at the appeal which he won. Daniel, was not so fortunate. So I know at first hand that this film is a fair, if polemical, representation of what is actually happening and that any of us – in the face of one or two twists of fate – could be in that position.

In the famous movie “Spartacus”, the followers of the eponymous leader of the slave revolt cry out “”I’m Spartacus”. At the conclusion of “”I, Daniel Blake”, I wanted to scream out “I’m Daniel”.

One Comment

  • Janet

    A curious juxtaposition of blog entries, Roger. Did you watch this film to temper your mood on “happiness day”? I had the opportunity to see this film last week, but declined, in spite of its reputation, as I had already had some depressing news that day.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>