I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake


Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival 2016, this is Ken Loach's drama about a 59-year-old carpenter in North-East England who falls ill and requires state assistance for disability. While he endeavours to overcome the red tape involved in getting this assistance, he meets single mother Katie.

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Flicks Review

Although I’ve personally enjoyed previous Palme d’Or winners, they’re typically tough to sell to general audiences. I couldn’t tell my neighbour to sacrifice three hours for talky Turkish tale Winter Sleep, I would not dare push Michael Haneke’s Amour on my parents, and we all know where we stand on The Tree of Life. But Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake stands apart from those Cannes champions by being a brutally straightforward tragedy about everyday folk trapped in bureaucratic hell – one that reflects a frightening reality recognisable to my neighbour, my parents, and probably you. ... More

Daniel, an older carpenter recovering from a workplace heart attack, is constantly denied a basic income due to a government-approved process that will not cater to his specific needs. Endless referrals, ridiculous quotas, goddamn automated phone messages – the banal incompetency of the system is actually played for hearty laughs at first, with stand-up comic Dave Johns giving Mr. Blake the perfect amount of sarcastic snap to his responses. But when these delays push him closer to poverty, it becomes no laughing matter.

His severe situation and common compassion lead him to Katie, a single mother of two who struggles to put food on the table in a damp and broken house that the state considers ‘liveable’. (If he can’t work for money, he’ll work to keep their walls insulated at least.) As Katie, Hayley Squires had me choking on my own heartbreak in a food bank scene that’s both casual and crushing – like an autumn leaf in a boot’s shadow.

The depressing subject matter is used to highlight human dignity and humane decency. That beauty flourishes in Daniel, Katie, and everyone in their community. It’s also nowhere to be found in the bureaucratic system that binds them. I, Daniel Blake is the common person’s masterpiece.Hide

The Peoples' Reviews

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BY cinemusefilm superstar

If film is a mirror on society then the sheer volume of recent movies about the ugliness of the post-GFC world is a reflection of the scale of devastation it has caused. Most are essays in poverty that explore the loss of humanity for ordinary people. The film I, Daniel Blake (2016) is another in this genre. It is an intense portrait of an ordinary man who struggles to retain dignity in an Orwellian world. Far from entertaining, it is gritty, raw, and unrelenting.

Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is... More a rough-speaking but likeable 59-year-old tradesman in Newcastle, England. He is recovering from a serious heart attack and lives alone. Unable to work, he does what thousands like him do in such circumstances: he applies for support allowance so he can pay his bills until health returns. What happens next is not the point, rather it is how it happens that will make you cringe. Form-filling becomes an obstacle course for preventing people like Daniel from getting help and the staff who process him absolve themselves of responsibility through constant referral to the “decision-maker” who is never there. Denied support allowance, he must apply for a job-seeker benefit that requires 35 hours a week of documented job hunting. His protestations are officially sanctioned and he loses all support.

In the midst of his own inhuman treatment by a soul-less bureaucracy Daniel tries to help a single mother with two young children who is also crushed by the system. Katie (Hayley Squires) has moved from a homeless hostel and is living on food handouts because her benefits have been stopped. She finds ‘affordable accommodation’ that Daniel offers to repair and he becomes a father figure. Still unable to buy shoes for her children, Katie finds the kind of work that shocks Daniel but is the last resort for many abandoned by a social welfare system with gaping holes in its safety net. Desperate to help her, Daniel vents his frustration through graffiti on the welfare office wall and briefly becomes an urban hero.

This is a disturbing film that many audiences will find confronting, particularly those who think they live in a caring society that supports people in need. The pace is slow and the dialogue often terse, but that’s how life is at the bottom. The subdued cinematography and colour palette accentuates the drabness of life for the dispossessed. Perfectly cast, the two main actors fill their roles with an authentic voice for countless ordinary people who fall on hard times. There is no joy in this film and whatever humour you find is there to make the story bearable. But in a world that moves inexorably towards a hard-right social conscience, it is a film that cries out to be seen and heard.Hide

BY DanielK superstar

Some critics have accused I, Daniel Blake of being too schematic - of skewing the Kafkaesque convolutions of Britain’s welfare system so devastatingly against the titular character that his situation becomes unbelievable. Well, those critics are partially correct, but they’re also overlooking the fact that the heightened nature of Daniel Blake’s situation is the entire point of the film. Yes, the scenario is ridiculous and cruel and unbelievable, but it’s also actually happening. Real,... More desperate people are getting lost in similar bureaucratic mires every day and if you expect director Ken Loach to flinch from this reality, to pull his punches in order to soften the blow, well… how many Ken Loach movies have you seen anyway?

Of course, there’s a lot more to I, Daniel Blake than soap-boxing. In addition to being tangibly pissed off, the film is also very sweet, often laugh-out-loud funny and almost painfully humanistic - there’s a quietly devastating scene in a food bank that’s one for the ages (to swipe a quote from Orson Welles, it would make a stone cry). If the final act comes close to over-egging the pudding, it’s very easy to forgive Loach his final indulgence after such searing and obviously heartfelt work. Accuse him of being heavy-handed or demagogic if you wish, but you certainly can’t accuse him of shirking from the vital task at hand.Hide

BY christinec superstar

A classic Ken Loach movie that presents what life is like when money becomes skint due to circumstances. An eye opener for those never had to deal with social services and how the very system set up to support the vulnerable can backfire through bureacracy. Great acting and quite engrossing. Not a fast pace movie but not slow or dragging either. Enjoyable and would give it 3.5 stars if able. Shed a tear at one stage...

I loved this film, although some may call it depressing.
It is not the traditional Hollywood, predictable storyline. It is about about real people, and makes you think about society and the direction some countries are going.

Highly recommended


Ken Loach’s Kafkaesque nightmare of bureaucracy gone batshit crazy is a bleak, brutal and bloody infuriating journey through a dis-United Kingdom, and the death throes of the Welfare State.

It’s a damning drama, lifted by touching humanity, humour and spirit, as embodied by Paul Laverty’s script and a committed cast acting their socks off.

Tough, Brit-grit viewing, but essential for fans of Loach’s documentary-styled dramas holding a mirror up to modern social... More injustice, and state-sanctioned bureaucratic insanity of Monty Pythonesque proportions.Hide

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The Press Reviews

91% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • A fierce and often funny polemic designed to leave a lump in your throat and a fire in your belly. Full Review

  • A spare film, muted in colour - and all the more powerful and urgent for it. Full Review

  • One of Loach's finest films, a drama of tender devastation that tells its story with an unblinking neorealist simplicity that goes right back to the plainspoken purity of Vittorio De Sica. Full Review

  • This film intervenes in the messy, ugly world of poverty with the secular intention of making us see that it really is happening, and in a prosperous nation, too. I, Daniel Blake is a movie with a fierce, simple dignity of its own. Full Review

  • While the framework and perspective are familiar, the veteran Brit director's films can still have the power to grip us in an emotional chokehold. Full Review

  • The 80-year-old director still has plenty of fire in his belly. Warm, belligerent and, in places, unbearably moving. Full Review

  • Loach scans the contemporary landscape, and instead of a firebrand approach of stereotype, delivers a film of immense sadness. Full Review

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