At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with this warmly involving rant against government bureaucracy. The film takes a blackly comical approach, gripping the audience as its engaging characters take on a system that seems utterly devoid of compassion. And by remaining centred on the people rather than the message, the film is involving and important.
Set in Newcastle, the story centres on Dan (Dave Johns), a carpenter in his late 50s who is recovering from a heart attack. His doctor says he's not ready to return to work, but the disability office, which is run by a private company, stops his payments because they think he looks perfectly healthy. He appeals this cold-hearted decision, but is now stuck in limbo while he waits for his case to be heard. Along the way, he meets Katie (Hayley Squires), a young woman struggling to take care of her two young children (Briana Shann and Dylan McKiernan) because new regulations are making it impossible for her to get the help she needs to get back on her feet.
Both Dan and Katie are caught in impossible situations, so they band together to help each other out and take on the system. But the rules keep changing, and neither the government employees nor private contractors offer any understanding at all. This lack of general human respect is infuriating to watch, especially as they force needy people to jump through a series of increasingly impossible hoops. Both Johns and Squires are likeable and energetic, adding earthy humour and righteous anger to each scene. And there are several side characters who bring various layers of texture to their stories. These people are all far from perfect, but at least most of them are trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Continue reading: I, Daniel Blake Review
Daniel Blake has been a carpenter all his life but when he suffers from a severe heart attack, his doctors urge him to take his life at a slower pace. With no other option, Daniel must turn to benefits to help him get back on his feet.
To receive state assistance, the joiner must be deemed ill enough to receive it but the test questions aren't suitable for Daniel's situation. On visiting the benefits office, he's informed that he must start looking for new work in fields he's not qualified in. Whilst waiting in the office, he hears a woman's plight for help. Whilst Daniel appeals his predicament, he bonds with Katie, a mother of two, who's being forced to move hundreds of miles away to avoid living in a homeless shelter.
I, Daniel Blake is a touching story of a man stuck in a real situation that has become all too apparent in recent years. British director Ken Loach won the Palme d'Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival for his most recent collaboration with screenwriter Paul Laverty.
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