Saturday, 22 October 2016

'I, Daniel Blake' Review

At aged 79, Director Ken Loach stepped up to receive his second Palme d'Or, the biggest award at the Cannes film festival. Describing it as 'very strange' to receive the award in such luxurious fashion due to the depressing nature and harsh conditions that are apparent in his latest film 'I, Daniel Blake'. With his realistic approach, Loach has produced one of the year's most powerful films.

Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a carpenter who has now been deemed unfit to work due to a heart condition. Due to this, he is in need of state welfare but the process is a nightmare for Blake as he is offered little help with it. He meets Katie (Hayley Squires), a young mother of two who has recently moved to Newcastle from London due to lack of housing. Together, the two struggle through the process as they look for help from the government to help provide for themselves and their families.

If you're looking for a film that is going to thoroughly entertain you, this most definitely isn't the one for you. This film is not one that will fill you with delight. In fact, it will do just the opposite.
Loach's brutally honest approach to the welfare system in the UK packs an incredible punch that will most definitely impact you. There's something that we can all relate to in this film; whether you have a relative who is suffering from a similar condition to the title character, or just have a relative who wouldn't be able to go through the online application processes that easily. Due to this, the film resonates with you as you couldn't imagine this happening to a loved one of your own. But the film oh so clearly shows that this is happening every day. It is infuriating to see these poor people being messed around, getting very little help when they desperately need it and being forced to waste their time. The process of these people goes through tests to see if their fit, as well as different tests from their doctors which do not coincide with each other, filling out countless online forms and pointlessly looking for work, despite not being cleared to do so, will most definitely light a fire inside of you. The system is shown to be broken and with very little being done to help these people, you will really feel yourself becoming more annoyed at the system as the film goes on.

The film doesn't just target the systems treatment of the ill, but of young families too. Blake comes across a young mother Katie whose story is equally as tragic as she struggles to provide for her children. Katie is then taken down a very dark route compared to Blake, all due to being late for one meeting at the job centre. Hayley Squires does a tremendous job in this role where she breaks down on many occasions and is forced to do terrible things in order to provide for her family. It is heartbreaking to see this unfold before your eyes and Squires captures this magnificently.

Comedian Dave Johns plays Daniel Blake in a film which only gives him a few moments to show his comedic talents. Johns brings that feeling of a true working class man to the character in an impressive first leading role. His reactions to everything that is happening is what you would expect from this kind of person who has the right intentions for everything. Realism is the main factor in Johns convincing performance as he would happily go back to work and isn't looking for an easy way out. His character looks to help out the struggling Katie by fixing up her home when the council is too slow to do so and even providing a sort of father figure to her kids. He looks to keep the children on the right foot, even getting huge improvements in the son's behaviour. His performance and likeability make you root for him but also makes the story that more tragic for the viewer.

In this film where it all seems doom and gloom, there are a few glimpses of hope that make Daniel Blake seem like a figure who could inspire a generation to really make a change. The graffiti scene will fill you with joy as you see Blake let off some steam against the establishment. Unfortunately, there wasn't much more of this with it not showing any other occasions where people stand up against what is going on. That is a damning look at our society today, showing that we aren't doing enough to force a change, which would allow these people to be more secure much more quickly. Loach seems to have intentionally done this to show that there should be much more support against the way the State runs certain things. A wake-up call before it is too late for many more people.

Due to the nature and tone of the film, there have been grumblings from people claiming that the film is boring. This isn't your typical film for sure as it clearly looks to tackle real life problems. If you're just looking for an easy, entertaining watch then you should probably stay away from this film as it won't fulfill that need for you. However, you should give it a chance to see the powerful story that has been crafted.

Overall, 'I, Daniel Blake' is an incredibly powerful film with subjects that most of us could probably relate to. It's safe to say that it can be depressing at times as this film packs a punch which will hopefully create a discussion for change. Johns and Squires are both fantastic in their roles in a film which will impact you for sure.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'I, Daniel Blake'? If so, what did you think of it? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie, which I highly recommend. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor