I didn’t go into I, Daniel Blake expecting an uplifting film by any means, but the amount that Ken Loach’s latest release moved me was surprising. It’s been a while since I’ve been that upset and angered by a film that portrays the injustice faced by people trying to negotiate the UK’s benefit system.
The two main characters, Daniel and Katie, both face different issues within the overall benefits system. Daniel, after a recent heart attack, has been told by a doctor he cannot work, yet the local benefit office rule that he is ‘fit to work’ and refuse to give him Employment and Support Allowance. Katie, a single mother of two children, has recently been relocated to Newcastle and is facing near starvation after a benefits sanction when she turned up late to an appointment at the Job Centre.
Shot and presented in a typically Loachian realism, the minimal camera work and sparse sets give the film an appearance of a documentary, and given the debates surrounding the benefits cuts under the current government, this is a film that is especially relevant.
The lengths which the characters go to in order to survive – the food bank scene is one of those that will stick with me for a long time – is heartbreaking, and the ending, although not completely left field, was shocking.
When I saw it in the cinema, it wasn’t packed, but when the credits rolled on a plain black screen we all sat in silence, not moving. It is one of the films that leaves you with a huge sense of injustice, made all the worse for non-fiction element.
A worthy Palme d’Or winner, I, Daniel Blake is a film that will go down as a damning example of the inequality of 21st century society.