“When you lose your self respect, you’re done for” – I, Daniel Blake (Blu-Ray Review)

Only a select few can claim that they’ve won multiple Palme d’Or awards, and one of those few is none other than Ken Loach. His filmography is renowned for its criticism and assessment of society, and I, Daniel Blake is no different.

Loach’s feature centres around a carpenter who, having recently suffered a heart-attack, is caught in a limbo between signing on to receive benefits and receiving job-seekers allowance. Whilst at the job centre, he meets a single mother in a similar position. The pair develop an unlikely friendship, whilst both struggling with their day-to-day lives.

The topic of benefits in the UK is always controversial, especially given the current state of British politics. But Loach approaches it in a manner which gives strength to those who are most in need, and eradicates the bigoted views on benefit claimants you’d likely in The Sun or The Daily Mail.

Dave John’s Daniel Blake is torn between wanting to make a living for himself and heeding the advice of his doctors, and it is both devastating and admirable to see. He doesn’t want to have to rely on others to maintain his livelihood, and his frustration from those around him who are defending a broken system leaves you seething in the audience.

It’s when Blake meets Katie (Hayley Squires) when things really get heart-breaking. A single mother of two, Katie is ripped from her home of London and forced up North, a place where she knows no one and has no bearings whatsoever. She is unable to heat her home, pay for electricity, or even feed herself, instead opting to essentially starve to ensure her kids don’t go hungry.

The scene in which Katie is eventually forced to receive support from a food bank is where the tears start flowing (for the first time). When no one is looking, she tears into a tin of baked beans and uses her fingers to shovel them down. When she’s caught, there is no anger from those around her, but instead sympathy. To see Katie break down in this manner, to see her face full of shame and regret that is in no way deserved, is disgusting. This scene is a reflection of how thousands of people are forced to feel, and to know that this happens on a daily basis, in 2017, is unforgivable.

But Ken Loach does not just focus on the negatives. In fact, at times, I, Daniel Blake is funnier than a lot of so-called comedies. Dave Johns is outstanding in the lead role, and his work as a comedian allows him to inject some welcoming and perfectly appropriate comedic turns.

It’s clear to see why this film won so many prestigious awards this season. I, Daniel Blake is nothing short of outstanding, and Loach’s scathing criticism of the Government and modern day Britain makes it one of the best films of 2016.

Dir: Ken Loach

Scr: Paul Laverty

Cast: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Sharon Percy, Brianna Shann

Prd: Rebecca O’Brien

DOP: Robbie Ryan

Music: George Fenton

Country: UK

Year: 2016

Runtime: 100 mins

I, Daniel Blake is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now.

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