I, Daniel Blake

Internationally renown British director Ken Loach announced in 2014 that he was to retire from filmmaking. But in 2016 something made him angry enough to want to make at least another film. What is he denouncing? In 2008 the British government started an overhaul of their disability support and welfare programs. What was supposed to save billions of pounds a year from the welfare budget, instead cost more money to administer. For some of the claimants, the decisions taken about their benefits were fatal. Daniel Blake (Dave Johns), carpenter by trade, suffered a heart attack at work. He is recovered but, according to his doctor, not well enough to go back to work. After an assessment from a so called “health care professional”, Daniel is deemed “Fit for work”. The assessment was based on an interview with Daniel, and the decision is taken without considering his medical records or any medical expertise. He gets a letter informing him of the decision. He would like to appeal, but is told he has to wait for a phone call before he can appeal. This is Kafkaesque! Daniel is a good man who likes to help his fellow man. At the Jobcentre Daniel meets Katie Morgan (Hayley Squires), a young mother of two. Katie is refused help because she arrived late at a meeting. Daniel tries to help her as much as he can, and he becomes a father figure (or at his age it could be a grandfather figure) for the children. Daniel is told that he has to fill a form… online! Daniel is computer illiterate. He’s never been near a computer. He gets some help from Ann (Kate Rutter), a worker at the Jobcentre. But soon Ann is reprimanded because she helped him. Daniel is forced to look for work or he will lose his benefits. He is also forced to attend a ridiculous class on how to write a CV, with a stupid instruction that the job seekers should also bring a digital copy of the CV. As for Katie, she is a mom who does what has to be done to feed her kids. Dave Johns, a stand-up comedian doing his first dramatic film, is exactly the perfect actor for the part. I, Daniel Blake is a realistic film about a working class man, an ordinary guy. Johns does not seem to be playing at all. His acting is quiet, real and incredibly appealing. Loach;s directing style is simple: don’t get in the way of your characters, who are more important than the camera angles. His screenplay is a bit too structured and formatted. I knew some things would happened before they did, and it clashes with the realistic style of the film. There is a scene where Katie goes to the food bank that caught me completely by surprise. Like Johns, Hayley Squires gives a heart wrenching performance. Everything that Loach says about the welfare system in England is true. If you are a good soul who think that human beings don’t treat other human beings that way, well think again and go see I, Daniel Blake.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

I, Daniel Blake

Directed by:
Ken Loach

Screenplay by:
Ken Loach

Starring:
Dave Johns
Hayley Squires
Dylan McKiernan
Briana Shann
Kate Rutter

100 min.

Rated 14A

Although English is spoken in I, Daniel Blake, all the characters have a different accent and it is hard at times to understand them, as is often the case with Ken Loach. Because of that it will be presented with English subtitles.

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