Review for I, Daniel Blake
I, Daniel Blake tells the story of Daniel a working class man who has worked his entire life until a heart attack has forced him to become unemployed. Now he looks to the state to help him, but finds himself lost in the confusing bureaucratic world where everything is done online and on computers "We are online by default" to which Daniel replies "Well, I'm pencil by default!"
He finds his medical claim is declined due to a flawed assessment that does not take his condition into consideration. This is a world where the wrong tick of a box could mean the difference between getting the benefit support he needs or starvation. While he waits for his appeal he is forced to claim for Job Seekers, but to qualify must spend hours looking for non-existent jobs that he can't do anyway due to his health.
On a visit to the uncaring job centre he encounters Katie with her children Dylan and Daisy. She has been moved from London to Newcastle for a new start, but has found herself almost abandoned and again having to run around the red tape of the benefit system. Daniel helps fix up her home using his manual skills, but sees her struggle with the new surroundings.
One harrowing scene sees her go to the local food bank which is so gut-wrenching to watch and yet so realistic when you know that this is exactly how a lot people live. When you watch the documentary and you see how they made the scene and that only a few people knew what was going on just shows how amazing everyone on screen was at bringing this grim reality to the screen. Finding it hard to find work she ends up being forced to do what a lot of young women do and watching Daniel's reaction to it is just heartbreaking.
I found myself watching this film moved to laughter one minute and then the next to tears. I found the whole experience made me realise how lucky I am that I have a job and though any time I have been in a Job Centre it has not been as grim as made out in this film I can understand how it must feel. I found David Johns as Daniel Blake thoroughly believable and his interactions with everyone was just a perfect mix of pathos and just grim satire. Hayley Squires is also fantastic as Katie and she is well deserving of her BAFTA nomination and I was surprised at how much she looked like Mila Kunis that no doubt when someone writes the film requiring her to have a British twin then she will be cast straight away.
However, I would advise that this is not a film to walk into lightly and there are many gut punches throughout which are hard to recover from. The interactions between Daniel and Katie's children are heartwarming and then when her daughter tells Katie about needing new shoes it just breaks your heart. This is a film that everyone should watch a film that everyone who works in the government, every job centre employee and anyone who wants their eyes opened to how this system treats those in need should watch this. I found it a beautiful experience, both hard at times and rewarding.
Special features include eight minutes of Deleted scenes. These are really just extensions of the job searching and CV seminar which don't add or remove anything from the film. A thirty minute documentary 'How to Make a Ken Loach Film' which show how the film was created from inspiration and writing to casting and filming. This is clearly a passion project for Ken Loach and Writer Paul Laverty and it is fascinating how they came to make the film. This shown even more in the Commentary by Director Ken Loach and Writer Paul Laverty which is full of amazing stories and really feels like you are just listening to two friends discuss a project that they had a lot of passion and commitment to.
I, Daniel Blake is a film that everyone who thinks that everyone on the dole is a scrounger needs to watch. It shows the humanity of the people and especially those who just need help. It shows a flawed system that views people as National Insurance numbers and tick boxes rather than as human beings. I found it very difficult to watch this film, but I do not regret watching it and will recommend this film as undoubtedly Film of the Year.