I, Daniel Blake

A typically powerful polemic from Loach that speaks directly to the audience's heart

Film Review by Patrick Gamble | 12 Sep 2016
Film title: I, Daniel Blake
Director: Ken Loach
Starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Briana Shann, Dylan McKiernan
Release date: 21 Oct

When did it become unfashionable to discuss class and social inequality? Earlier this year, certain parts of the British media were quick to voice their shock and disappointment when the Cannes Film Festival awarded Ken Loach with his second Palme d’Or for I, Daniel Blake, a humane drama that acts as a brutal indictment of the British welfare state. Instead of celebrating the film's pertinent message they bemoaned its moralistic approach. This cynicism is disheartening, but hardly surprising at a time when working class voices are noticeably absent from our screens.

Using black humour to capture the frustration of life on the breadline, those familiar with Loach’s work won’t discover anything radically different here. His latest follows downtrodden carpenter Daniel Blake (Johns) as he navigates the red-tape and bureaucracy of claiming Employment Support. Daniel's Kafkaesque encounter with the state leads him to Katie (Squires), a single mum who has moved to Newcastle due to a shortage of council housing in the capital. Their platonic friendship becomes the beating heart of I, Daniel Blake, with Loach and long-time collaborator Paul Laverty using the characters' precarious situation to highlight the human cost of a shrinking welfare system.

This intimate approach allows the performances to resonate with great intensity. Newcomer Squires excels in a difficult role, painfully concealing Katie’s suffering with a veneer of stoicism so fragile it’s impossible to hold back the tears once her façade finally shatters. Johns – best known for his stand-up comedy – is the real find, however, lending the film some much-needed humour and compassion.

Dismantling the myths and demonisation surrounding benefit claimants, I, Daniel Blake isn't based on a true story but it certainly feels like it could be. Inspired by Loach and Laverty’s encounters with various families across the country who are dependant on food banks, this painfully moving film gives a voice to the voiceless and is a timely example of protest filmmaking that speaks to audience's hearts.

Released by Entertainment One