This may be director Loach's last film and with it he further solidifies his position as John Bunyan of British cinema. In many ways I, Daniel Blake does the same for 21st Century Britain that 12 Years a Slave did to America in the 1850s. It exposes all that is evil, demeaning and heartless in the world, the depths to which brave, honest, good people are sunk. It's a much harder pill to swallow when the world being examined exists right now and is implicitly the fault of those lucky enough to spend a Friday evening fingering cinema popcorn into their mouths.
Loach's film is full of the subtlety and introspection that makes a truly good film. Dave Johns's Daniel Blake is funny and kind, offers up his last £20 so his friend can cook for her children, but he cannot weather an argument about what kind of work she should do.
Hayley Squires as Katie, a friendless single mother from London who has been relocated to a council flat in Newcastle against her wishes and with her two boisterous children is quick to temper and to love. She allows Daniel to befriend her and fix up the dilapidated flat between job applications and standing long in line at the food bank.
Daniel isn't cunning and savvy enough to work the benefits system. His recent near-fatal heart attack means he is unable to go back to work, but because he can can lift his arms 'as though putting on a hat', he's been denied disability allowance. He must apply for jobs to maintain his job-seakers allowance, but he can't use a computer, doesn't have internet and wouldn't be able to pay for it even if he could.
No one in the local library has the time or inclination to help him fill out his forms. His hand-written CV offends the stoney-eyed government employees, but ironically, doesn't offend his potential employers. He must turn down the work offered to him and suffer the ensuing storm of 'scrounger' insults.
Daniel and Katie lock horns with a cold, surgery white Jobcentre; with its strip lighting, grey cubicles and 'by the book' approach to every complaint. It's hard to imagine that such a place exists, seemingly designed to deflect applications for help, leaving desperate people worse off then before. But exist it does. Like I say, I, Daniel Blake as much a call to arms than a piece of entertainment. Enjoy the popcorn.
|What||I, Daniel Blake review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
06 Jun 17 – 09 Jun 17, Show times tbd
|Website||Click here to buy Secret Cinema tickets|