I, Daniel Blake

Filed in Film by on April 27, 2017 0 Comments

Daniel Blake is a 59-year-old carpenter who’s had a major heart attack and is now applying for unemployment insurance. “My marathon days are over,” he says in a reference to his long career.

But as he becomes enmeshed in a state bureaucracy that’s supposed to ease his transition to good health again, he sinks to new depths of despair.┬áBlake (Dave Johns) is the chief protagonist in Ken Loach’s latest film, I, Daniel Blake, which opens in Canada on May 5.

Loach’s spare movie, set in the northern British city of Newcastle, is a blistering critique of a social welfare system that confuses and belittles its users and feeds off a sluggish economy incapable of generating sufficient jobs.

Blake, a widower, is a kind-hearted man who befriends Katie Morgan (Haley Squires), a single, unemployed mother of two children who has recently moved from London to Newcastle. After a while, he becomes something of a surrogate father and grandfather, sharing good times and troubles with them.

Dave Johns and Hayley Squires in I, Daniel Blake

Dave Johns and Hayley Squires in I, Daniel Blake

But when he’s dealing with the bureaucrats, his temper flares, threatening to jeopardize his benefits. The truth is that Blake has been left behind in the dust by the new age of technology. He doesn’t own a computer, nor does he know how to use one. And this is a great impediment because he’s expected to fill out documents digitally and prepare a properly formatted resume.

Eventually, Blake bumps up against a glaring inconsistency. The medical advice he receives indicates he’s not ready to go back to work. But he stands to lose his benefits if he doesn’t seriously look for a job. It’s a maddening Catch-22 situation without a solution.

As he struggles with this exasperating dilemma, Katie’s plight grows worse, forcing her to rely on handouts from the food bank and take a demeaning job.

Loach has chosen actors who fit into his landscape seamlessly. Johns and Squires are like real-life figures in a gritty documentary.

In this unrelentingly bleak film, Loach presents a critique of capitalism that cuts to the bone.

 

 

 

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