I, Daniel Blake

Film, Drama
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(14user reviews)
I, Daniel Blake

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Ken Loach is back with a moving Newcastle-set tragedy about the failings of modern Britain

Fifty years since Ken Loach raged against homelessness in his television play 'Cathy Come Home', the British filmmaker has made a film infused with the same quiet but righteous anger about the failings of the society around him. 'I, Daniel Blake' is the story of an unlikely but tender friendship between Katie (Hayley Squires), a single mother from London with two kids, and Dan (Dave Johns), a Geordie carpenter in his late fifties who's out of work and recovering from a heart attack.

There are no histrionics here, no crowd-pleasing genre leanings, barely any score: Loach tells his tale straight and with the confidence of someone who knows that they have a story to tell, with no need for bells and whistles. It's a spare film, muted in colour and unflashy – and it's all the more powerful and urgent for it.

Both Katie and Dan are feeling the sharp end of the shrinking welfare state: Katie has been forced to move her children north to Newcastle to find a flat; Dan is stuck in a nightmarish bureacratic limbo between work, illness and benefits. 'We're digital by default,' a job centre worker tells this man who's never used a computer, pointing him towards yet another online form. The language of impersonal government bureaucracy runs through the film. It's blackly comic until it begins to sound threatening, even deadly.

Loach sketches with compassion the growing humiliation felt by both Dan and Katie; forces beyond both are turning them into different people. Dan is community-minded, gentle, a laugh. At first, he's able to criticise, even laugh at, the system that's crushing him. The tragedy of the film – and its rousing point – is that in the end it's all too much for one man, however much he takes a stand. Dan, and people like him everywhere, need a Katie watching their back; they need a community, a benevolent government, us. Katie is proud, outwardly together – so much so that the the film's most devastating scene comes when she lets her mask slip in public during a visit to a food bank.

In style, 'I, Daniel Blake' is perhaps Loach's most unassuming, straightforward film since 2001's 'The Navigators'. It goes in for the kill almost meekly. Like almost all of Loach's film's of the past 20 years, it's written by Paul Laverty, and there are small moments which betray his keen researcher's nose, like the tactics used to keep an unheated property warm (bubble wrap on the windows; candle-powered improvised heaters). A sub-plot about Dan's younger neighbour selling dodgy trainers imported from China feels a touch superfluous (another detail surely picked up in research), but this is mostly a film with a clear-headed and undiluted mission. It shares its purpose with some humour and a whole load of passion and fury.

Details

Release details

Rated:
15
Release date:
Friday October 21 2016
Duration:
100 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Ken Loach
Cast:
Dave Johns
Hayley Squires
Micky McGregor

Users say (14)

5 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:8
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|14
2 people listening
tastemaker

This is a must-see, a film that will be talked about and studied decades from now. It's remarkably authentic, harrowing,  and thought-provoking as a snapshot of modern day Britain for many people. I watched with a knot in my stomach and a general frustration at the state of the system and it's treatment of Daniel. It's all too real and should be seen far and wide

Tastemaker

I think that 'gritty' is a great word to describe this film. The story tells us about Daniel Blake, who is unable to work and has been signed off by his doctor, but cannot claim benefits due to the incompetencies of those working in the Job Centre. It showed the humiliation that some people have to go through to claim benefits, and how they're treated by total jobsworths at the job centre!

Tastemaker

A thought provoking, gritty film portraying the grim realities of a disabled guy battling the state. This is quite a depressing film and although Daniel Blake offers light humour in places it can be hard watching. This is a shocking account of how some innocent people are affected and offers a stern reminder of how deeply some people are affected and the lengths they will resort to in signs of desperation and hard times. The scene in the food bank is just heartbreaking to watch. This a film that will definitely get you thinking. Dave Johns and Hayley Squires playing Daniel Blake and Katie Morgan respectively are absolutely brilliant in their roles. 

Tastemaker

So hard to write a review of this film. As we left the cinema neither I nor my companion could speak for a long time. It is powerful, sobering , shaming, disturbing and a must see.


There were a couple of times when I was just overcome with emotion but mostly the film produces an uneasy sick feeling about how easy it is for people to become dehumanised and fall through the cracks of our society and systems .

Clearly the director is making a point and has chosen a narrative and direction that suits that - but for me this story should not be able to exist. We should not have people who are forced to live like this in a wealthy, developed country.


I feel everyone should go and see this film.

tastemaker

Ken Loach still has the power to make a make a simple understated film about poverty & benefits in 2016 Britain, and give it real power & purpose. Dave Johns (as Dan) & Hayley Squires (as Katie) give two unforgettable performances. Ken sends out a plea for a more caring & decent Britain, and sends a rocket into the world of Government social care, and the faceless cruelty of benefits bureaucracy. The film is timely, it's moving, and never slips into sentimentality.

Tastemaker

‘I Daniel Blake’ is my first Ken Loach film. I’d like to say it won’t be my last but I’m not sure my emotions are up to tackling his back catalogue just yet.


A somewhat unlikely friendship develops between middle-aged carpenter Dan and young single mother Katie after he stands up in her defence at the job centre and the film follows both their individual stories and that new relationship. There are no dazzling visuals, no stirring score and no overblown dramatics; everything is depicted with precision and understated clarity. The resolute robotic responses of those in the positions of power will lead you from disbelief to uncomfortable laughter to rage to sorrow and back again; it’s an unerringly bleak circle from which there is no escape for the 100 minutes that Loach presents us with here.


Seeking help from a local food bank gives us the most brutal scene of the whole film and as Katie, Hayley Squires, is absolutely superb. She is not perfect by any means but her situation is surprisingly relatable in an age where rents are often extortionate and landlords are often uncaring.


Dave Johns’ depiction of Dan, a man deemed unable to work by his doctors after a heart attack but marked a-ok by the scripted checklist of the government, is excellent. You can’t help be moved by his frustrations over the bureaucratic hamster wheel he finds himself on with the most desperately affecting thoughts coming when you imagine your own dad in his situation.


This film left me feeling pretty sick, tired and devastated; I went on my own but all I can say is whether or not you think it's your sort of film, there's no denying the power of this simple but nauseating story which is, I fear, all too representative of life for many people today. I sat in the dark weeping with sorrow for the characters, incandescent with rage at the scumbags who have abused the system to the point where honest people in need of help are treated with suspicion & disdain and utterly thankful that I have not yet found myself in this position, something that could all too easily happen to any of us.


This film won't get dozens of screens in scores of cinemas devoted to it because it doesn't have superheroes, aliens or dinosaurs in it but I would beg everyone who can to seek it out and watch it; there'll be another caped crusader along in a minute but it will be a while before another film like this comes along.

tastemaker

I haven't been moved so much by a film since I saw The Killing Fields... and that was a good 30 years ago. It's raw, it's uncluttered, it's a bare bones portrayal of a life in limbo... caught in a never ending bureaucracy Daniel is just trying to live. The scene in the food bank had me in tears, a stunning bit of writing. Please just watch it, be patient; there is no huge story arc; this is just about people, real people, living real lives, stuck in an ever increasing world of HR speak. 

Tastemaker

It's not often you watch a film that's so raw that it feels as though you're there with the people in it and want to envelop them in a hug, but this one did just that. It's sometimes hard to believe that in this day and age and in a country that people are still living on the breadline, but it is happening and this film shows exactly how and why. The starkness of the film draws out the reality of the situation and is a powerful message for those who question the need for a benefit system.


Dan Blake is a hardworking carpenter, widowed and living in a council estate in Newcastle he has few assets to fall back on to support him when he is forced to give up work after a heart attack. Through the film we follow his journey as he fights to get out of a limbo between ineligibility for disability allowance and forced onto jobseekers allowance.


David Johns does a sterling job of playing the warm generous character of Dan, instantly making the viewer his biggest advocate. Hayley Squires is also superb as struggling single mum Katie. There's no fluff or superfluous storylines in this film, making it all the more real. There's no big crescendo, twist, turn or happy ending, it's more about making a political statement about social injustice that may be tough for some to swallow. My slight criticism that resulted in my four star score is that there is a tad of overacting by some of the more minor characters, which detracted from the superb performance of the main cast. It does a bad job of portraying all those working for the benefit system as 'baddies' who are out to get everyone, which felt rather contrived and contradictory to the rest of the film that shows the 'real humans'. However, don't let this put you off, it's still a very hard-hitting and moving story and a must watch.

Tastemaker

I heard someone say: “it’s sad to know that some people will believe this isn’t true”. I think this sums it up.


Living in a prosperous nation, we often forget what’s really happening right beside us. Thank god this movie sheds light on the reality of struggling individuals in the UK today.

Raw, gut-wrenching and extremely sad, it tells the story of two people trying to retain some dignity, while being confronted to the unjust and faceless machinery of the State system. But it’s the humanity of it all that makes this movie such a great piece of filmmaking. There’s funny moments – which reflect the willingness of people to keep enjoying life, no matter what. And there’s absurd moments. But don’t go thinking this is creative license, because I assure you, this is all true and happens to people around the country everyday...

Carried by exceptional lead performances from Johns and Squires, it is an absolute must-see of a movie.

Tastemaker

Ken Loach never disappoints. A powerful story that will make you laugh and cry, and think a lot about the society we live in. The leading actor are incredible, I was very impressed despite the fact that I had never seen them before. This is a movie that everyone should see, in all its almost brutal honesty. 


There are two stand-out performances in this powerful film - one is the lead role, played by stand-up comic Dave Johns, the other is that of the single-mum he befriends and takes under his wing, played by Hayley Squires in a performance that is heart-wrenching to watch. A Fantine for this 21st century Les Misérables. Ultimately though this is a piece of agit-prop, perhaps unashamedly so, and you can't help feeling a bit, well, manipulated at times - this is very much a work that takes one point of view, rather than one that lets the viewer decide. That said, the message is hit home with clinical precision and craftsmanship. There are a few moments and supporting roles that don't quite work - but all in all it's compelling stuff. 

tastemaker

I, Daniel Blake

I went to see this film based on watching one tv trailer and a poster in the tube station.

I for one do enjoy supporting a British film but I honestly didn't really know the plot prior to viewing

The acting is phenomenal and the story itself really brings home the issues that we as individuals can easily chose to ignore that are right here now on our very own doorstop. It highlights what is wrong with our society and hits home hard about how lucky we really are. Take tissues and expect to come out of the cinema with new opinions and a little bit of rage against politics and our society. Really well written and directed with heartfelt performances from a superb cast with a story that could happen to anybody.

tastemaker

“It’s a monumental farce isn’t it. Looking for nonexistent jobs and all it does it humiliate me.”


Few films are this powerful. By the time the film had ended I had laughed and I had cried. Alot.Our society is currently stuck on a precipice - people who desperately need help just cannot get it and are therefore slipping through the cracks. By watching this film you perspective and awareness of the world around you will be widened. It's blunt, honest and shrewd – emphatic with its focus and Dickensian with its critique. Forgot ‘must-watch, this is ‘need-watch’.