By Melissa Clifford
‘I, Daniel Blake’ comes from director Ken Loach (Kes, The Wind That Shakes The Barley) and was written by Paul Laverty (Bread and Roses, The Wind That Shakes The Barley) It won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival. It stars comedian Dave Johns as the titular character Daniel Blake as he struggles to deal with the British benefit system after having a heart attack at work and also starts Hayley Squires as Katie, a single mother who also finds herself struggling with the benefits system.
‘I, Daniel Blake’ as a film is one which is uncompromising in its depiction and critique of the British welfare system as inhumane. Via the lack of compassion the characters face to their troubles, to the bewilderingly confusing bureaucracy they face and the desperate means they go to in order to get enough money to get by, Ken Loach, Paul Laverty and the cast do an excellent job in getting across this critique in a way which feels not like someone lecturing you but rather someone letting you walk a mile in a group of peoples shoes and letting you get to know them and consequently, feel very much invested in all they go through.
The characters in the film are well fleshed out and likeable, making it easy for you to root for them, especially when you see the trials they go through (having to wait ages for food, having to steal sanitary products and selling most of their possessions just to name a few). Johns and Squires do an excellent job in fleshing out their characters and making them likeable and decent people. Johns portrays Daniel well as a manual worker who is very easy to like and relate to. Johns history as a comedian shines through here in his comedic delivery which occurs every now and then to deliver some levity from the harsh oppressive atmosphere which the characters must go through. In addition, his acting when it comes to the serious parts of the film is solid, showing that he has true skill as an actor and a future in film. Squires in particular does a great job in portraying Katie, a struggling working class mum who loves her children and goes to great length to provide for them. Katie is one of the few depictions of working class women that actually contains nuance and is positive, unlike many which seek to portray them as greedy, lazy or not caring for their children. It’s a welcome sight and one which hopefully becomes more and more common in media. Special acknowledgement goes to Briana Shann and Dylan McKiernan for portraying Katie’s children Daisy and Dylan, who do a great job in bringing their characters to life.
The film is seldom accompanied by any sort of music, likely as a way in which to reinforce the realistic scenario the characters go through. While perhaps a choice that may alienate some and while not one I’m particularly dead set on, it does have its advantages in helping make the events depicted in the film feel all the more real and shocking.
With the UN investigating if the British welfare system is violating human rights and with more and more people in the benefits system committing suicide this film is not only well made and emotional but it is also vital. Loach deserves all the praise and prestige he has received for this uncompromising film as does Laverty for his excellent script and the cast for their also excellent performances. All of them do an great job in creating a film which is emotionally engaging, whether it’s making you laugh, whether it’s making you angry or whether it’s making you cry, with the finale in particular being a stand out moment that had me personally crying, as it did many other men and women in the screening of the film I went to.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough to anyone wishing to see an emotionally powerful insight into the British Welfare System and how it treats those trying to get by. Be prepared for a film which won’t leave you cheerful after but if you can get through that, you will however be glad you came due to the powerful story told and the engaging characters whose lives you’ll become attached to.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);