Film Review: I, Daniel Blake

Film REview - Ken Loach i Daniel Blake

How To Dehumanise A Nation

“I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.”
John Locke


As absolutely heart wrenching at times as Ken Loach’s new hard hitting drama ‘I, Daniel Blake’ (2016) is, and made all the more potent by a fantastic script by his regular writing partner Paul Laverty, you just know it’s the tip of the iceberg in regards the stories that could have been told. This was supported by comments made by the main cast Hayley Squires, Dave Johns plus Ken and Paul at a short Q&A after the screening FLUSH attended. During their research (alot of which came from whistleblowers in Work and Pensions) for the film they had met a multitude of folk who were across the entire spectrum of social backgrounds, from highly qualified Masters Degrees to people with learning difficulties, but irrespective of that, the vast majority of people today are two to three pay checks away from being destitute. It was even mentioned that one decent individual who worked in Work & Pensions tried to help someone in need, was placed by management on a PIP course (Personal Improvement Plan) as he wasn’t placing enough sanctions (penalties where money was deducted from payments, millions of them) on people. He was subsequently sacked and ended up having to go to food banks himself.

Ken also mentioned that it was only a few years ago where if you went to the Job Centre the staff pro actively helped people to find jobs. Today they aren’t allowed to tell folk about any available positions at all, they are pro actively working against those in need.

There was a phrase used by the Nazis that laid the foundation for their campaign of total fascism. Untermensch effectively meant ‘inferior people’ and was a device that permeated all mainstream media to slowly, but surely make certain words, themes, ideologies and rhetoric become the norm. A similar situation exists now and has done for at least the past 6+ year of Conservative governance (and the rise of UKIP etc) where MSM on an hourly basis bombards the public with agenda (matching government desires) setting bias against whole strata of society. Basically aiming to turn society against swathes of people, blaming them for any and all woes of the remaining, irrespective of the biggest companies in the world paying the bare minimum of tax, if any at all, that if paid would alleviate any and pretty much all problems in the country. The recent request by the European Commission for Apple to pay €13 billion in unpaid taxes to Ireland is representative of the current behaviour, and that’s just one company. Billions (potentially hundreds of billions) aren’t being paid in the UK, the fifth wealthiest country in the world.

Film REview - Ken Loach i Daniel Blake

Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a middle aged carpenter in Newcastle. He’s been an honest grafter all his life, paying his dues on time, all the time. He’s also a widower, and is recovering from a recent heart attack. His doctor has told him he needs time to recover and rebuild his strength and of naturally isn’t fit for work. Not according to the ‘Health Care Professional’ who talks at him with the monotone of a contemptuous robot reading a company script. Clearly aiming to hit her sanctions quota she proclaims with zero emotion, empathy, recognition or reasoning that he won’t be receiving any support. And so begins his surreal spiral down into a Gordian Knot of a system deliberately constructed to lose people out of sheer frustration, or suicide.

Katie (Hayley Squires) is a single mum with two kids who had to move from her flat in London (where she’s from), and thanks to a very obvious but unwritten/spoken government edict of social cleansing, has been shipped off like cattle or cannon fodder to Newcastle.

Dave meets Katie while she’s being mentally and emotionally pin balled around by Work and Pensions staff with zero empathy (that should be their slogan) as she has found herself in a bad way, with overwhelming sense of no apparent lifelines coming. Despite the topic of the movie, there is an incredible amount of basic human empathy and tenderness around. Obviously not behind the stun gun ready the cattle for slaughter corporate face of the Work and Pensions, where any human warmth that is shown by staff is swiftly crushed by management. But being that the feature is set in Newcastle there is a tremendous natural warmth and affection between everyone. Some of the moments where Daniel is hanging out with his young neighbours are comedy gems. In fact there is a huge thread of comedy throughout the piece that makes you laugh and despair at the farce of the situations people are placed in. Lunacy reigns.

Film REview - Ken Loach i Daniel Blake

Hayley and Dave are simply outstanding in their roles. There are a couple of moments where Katie finds herself in situations that are utterly heartbreaking and humiliating. No reasoned modern society can claim to have any pride in itself if it allows events like this to happen, remembering that there were far worse tales that could have been told. Jingoism is horrific at the best of times, but when flags of silk wave above the bodies of the starving or dead of that nations people, stock and immediate action must be taken.

It may all sound a bit dour, but it’s supposed to be, it’s far too important a message being that it’s representative of the current state of the UK (and the West in general). Ignoring it is wanton participation in this oppression, and you are pro actively assisting a government to harm your neighbours and potentially yourself in the future. It may not be the biggest budget movie, nor have the A List cast, but it is stunningly vital real cinema, and probably the most important movie out this year, and for many years to come, for no matter what eloquent speech written words are projected by this present government about caring for anyone, their actions clearly show the complete opposite. Joseph Goebbels would be very proud of what they’ve achieved.

10/10 ‘I, Daniel Blake’ is out now.

Steve Clarke

Born in Celtic lands, nurtured in art college, trained by the BBC, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson and released onto the battlefront of all things interesting/inspiring/good vibes... people, movies, music, clubbing, revolution, gigs, festivals, books, art, theatre, painting and trying to find letters on keyboards in the name of flushthefashion. Making sure it's not quite on the western front... and beyond.