Director Ken Loach is a champion for people who rarely have one in the field of cinema. Hell he is a champion for people who rarely have one in broader society, let alone the arts. I, Daniel Blake (2016) is as indignant and timely a film as the 80 year old has ever made – crushing, empathetic and infuriating. In the screening I was in, you could feel the energy pulsing through the audience as each injustice was wrought on the characters. The film sees Daniel Blake caught in the confusing maelstrom of the welfare system in England. A situation that leaves an honest man barely able to eat or get by.
Whilst the film is very specific to England, it confronts issues that also affect working class people in Australia as well as elsewhere. Conservative governments, fit to burst with privilege, see humiliation as an acceptable deterrent for welfare. They set out to frustrate those who desperately need help into abandoning hope because of the ‘system’. The film achingly depicts how state structures are used not just to humiliate, but to totally dehumanise those who most need the exact opposite in our society. The blame for this is squarely laid at the feet of conservative power, with their obsession for privatisation and savings above all else. Champions of ending welfare, they have never experienced hardship, so they can simply not fathom how others have. But all this is not achieved through staid or even generally depressing means. At the heart of the film is the (platonic) relationship between Dave Johns’ Daniel and Hayley Squires’ Katie. A single mum who Dan helps to get by in shocking circumstances. The heart and camaraderie of those in our society who have the least is one of the most uplifting elements of a film that for the most part is quite the opposite.
Verdict: The most important element of Loach’s filmmaking and worldview is his affection and respect for those he is depicting. I, Daniel Blake shows his sharp eye can turn equally to the oppressive mechanism of the state and the real people who are crushed by it. A quietly devastating film. Longneck of Melbourne Bitter
Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: The Angel’s Share and Jimmy’s Hall.
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You catch this at the festival?
Sounds really interesting, I have never actually heard of Ken Loach before Sight and Sound did a special on him
I’ll be seeing this on the day it comes out, this Thursday! 😀
Yeah man. It played at the British film fest. Which one of the better of those ones that travel around all the Palace cinemas. I’ve not seen all that many of Loach’s films. But I can highly recommend Jimmy’s Hall and The Angel’s Share. The latter of those is a fair bit lighter than the others.
Jimmy’s Hall, I didn’t know that was him. I meant to catch that last festival. This one is pretty good, my fave though is the French Film fest that comes around once a year.
This gets wide release tomorrow, I’ll be seeing the first session. I love it when I get to see the first movie of a great director. Like when I saw Grand Budapest, I had never seen a Wes movie before. I’m looking forward to this more and more.
Did you happen to see Winter from the Brit festival? Still contemplating going to see it, though its at 8:30 in the CBD, which is an hour away from me =/