‘All it does is humiliate me, grind me down…’
British director Ken Loach has been at the forefront of British cinema for decades now with his unique brand of kitchen sink realism. He has built a reputation on producing incendiary films with socialist leanings. More importantly though, Loach is known for the quality of his work. It is important to remember this juxtaposition when viewing I, Daniel Blake.
Loach’s 2016 film presents us with Geordie joiner Daniel Blake. Following a heart attack, Blake finds himself in bureaucratic limbo, unable to work but also unable to access Britain’s complicated and archaic benefits system. He meets single mum Katie who is in a similar boat and the two of them attempt to navigate a life of poverty together.
I, Daniel Blake is an overtly political film. It is openly critical of the Tory government and specifically condemns certain Tory policies. It will be hard for some people to see past such a partisan ideology and that is a shame, because aside from the political aspect of the story, I, Daniel Blake is just a great piece of cinema. It features warm and believable performances from the two leads, a darkly comic and ultimately heartbreaking script and a social commentary that is hard to dismiss whatever your political viewpoint.
From a social point of view, child poverty and food banks are a national disgrace in this country and it is worrying that it has taken an 80 year old film director to attempt to highlight this issue in a realistic and non condescending way.
The film may some a bit hysterical to some. Not every single mother has to resort to a life of crime and prostitution but you know what? Some of them do. The problems that Daniel Blake encounters are both very real and very common, as anyone who has tried to claim benefits will attest to.
I, Daniel Blake is more than just a Momentum propaganda film. To ignore poverty is to impose a death sentence upon thousands of struggling families. If our politicians won’t fight for us, then we must look to art to provide us with a voice. It would be nice to think that the next protest film to hit these shores might be directed by someone that isn’t drawing their pension.