I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016, UK)


After the screening of ‘I, Daniel Blake’ an elderly man stood up and shouted at the auditorium, ‘We are the fifth largest economy in the world and this is a disgrace.” There were only five of us there. I felt moved to hug him, though the best I managed was to put a hand on his shoulder. That a film can do this is amazing. Yet, I don’t think it’s a good film. It’s preachy, relentlessly grim, you see things coming a mile away, and know it’s going to go from grim to grimmer to grimmest. It holds no surprises. It offers no delights. Images highlight or evidence the telling rather than constitute it as part of dramatised show and tell. Yet, if I were to put a document in a time capsule to evoke how a sector of the British population lived today, this is what I would choose. According to The Guardian, ‘Statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed that during the period December 2011 and February 2014 2,380 people died after their claim for employment and support allowance (ESA) ended because a work capability assessment (WCA) found they were fit for work’. This figure is higher than that of all UK service personnel killed in action since 1962. What happens to Daniel Blake in the film is shocking.  Yet it is happening recurrently and relentlessly all over the country. Those who voted for such policies should be ashamed. Ian Duncan Smith should be brought to an international tribunal to answer to those statistics.  The film is true and effective.  Yet why do I still persist in thinking that it is not a good movie?Is it possible that it’s also false? That all poor people aren’t so nice and mutually supportive ,so in solidarity with each other? The Cannes Palme D’Or could just be evidence that ‘I, Daniel Blake’ is merely how the French prefer to see the British. Should we change our criteria of value? Apply different ones? Likewise, the film made me wonder: is it that I can’t confront reality or that I don’t agree with Loach’s view of it; and what aspects? It’s an undeniably powerful film, an important one, with a final speech that bears testimony to current conditions and is sure to draw tears from a stone. I was sad to see such a low attendance. But how good a film is it? I’m still not sure and suspect it’s very flawed indeed.

José Arroyo

1 thought on “I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016, UK)

  1. This film goes beyond cinema into the realm of political discourse at a time when the world is shifting hard right. Ken Loach has shown an uncanny sense of timing.

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