I, Daniel Blake: Movie Review.


food-bank.jpg

Ken Loach does it again.

If you know Ken Loach (and importantly his writing partner Paul Laverty) you’ll know I, Daniel Blake.

It’s a nightmare.

A total nightmare.

Life on poverty line Britain that is.

And Loach hammers this home with gusto.

He chooses Newcastle as his latest political landscape, partly because “it’s grim up North” but also because, in my experience, Geordies are the salt of the earth; kind, lovable folks. And this is the main emotional driver of this nightmare.

Daniel Blake is caught in a trap.

A beaurocratic hell populated by “computer says no” mini Hitlers occupying mainly minor roles in the Jobseeker hell that is Tory Britain.  In  a bid to out ‘scroungers’ the system has eaten itself and is spitting out vulnerable pitiful fodder like Daniel (played deeply sympathetically by comedian Dave Johns.  He’ll never win an Oscar but this part was made for him) and the lovable but deeply vulnerable Katie (played equally well by Hayley Squires – Call the Midwife).

He’s had a heart attack and his doctors say he can’t work but the Benefits Police say he has to go on jobseeker allowance and look for work or lose all entitlement to any money AT ALL.

It’s farcical.

She’s moved from a women’s hostel in London because she can’t afford a flat in London with her two children (one slightly miscast as a rather posh daughter, Daisy).  She’s having the same problems, only hers start from a tinpot Hitler chucking her out of the Job Centre for being late for her appointment.

They bond.  He helps her.  She helps him.  It’s grim but deeply affecting.  We then follow their shared struggle.

In many ways this movie is like a Ken Loach Primer.  It has all his usual trademarks and the ‘working class people are good’ message is laid on way too thickly.

But.

And it’s a big but they are in a profoundly believable real-life drama and I found myself in tears (of collective shame?) three times during it.

It certainly makes the reality of food banks in Britain very, very meaningful.  I won’t pass a collection point again if my conscience holds up.

Everything that is good about Loach is in this film.  In parts it’s laugh out loud funny (but it’s laughs of derision at our State).  In parts it’s deeply moving, even though some of the plot is verging on the ridiculous.

But who cares.  Ken Loach holds a mirror up to our frankly DISGUSTING society and mocks it.

But he mocks it with the most vicious of venom.

It feels real.  Really real.

It’s a must see.

The Angels’ share. A must see feel good movie with a bitter core


Wow, Ken Loach’s 21st movie (might be more) further deepens his fondness for documentary style movie making in Scotland.  As a child I was supremely moved by Kes.  My Uncle took me to see it as a 7 year old and it scared me.  The anger and bitterness of a Northern life of poverty, dominated by a glowering Brian Glover as the bullying PE teacher and the innocence of the lead character played by David Bradley left me all aquiver.  Since then I’ve followed Loach almost universally.  Riff Raff, Raining Stones, My Name is Joe, Carla’s Song, Looking for Eric.  All brilliant.  All gritty, all uncompromising.

Looking For Eric raised his box office bar by ingeniously casting Cantona and described as a comedy it had the odd laugh, but was no comedy.  And this in some way compares.

This man is a national treasure.

And, so, to a movie billed as a proper comedy.

Well, it is very, very funny.  Paul Lavety has made sure of that with a brittle acerbic, cynical script that bowls along spewing expletives faster than you can say “see you next Tuesday”.  The plot itself is a little fantastical but you can forgive that because the performances are extraordinary, not least by British TV stalwart John Henshaw in a career defining role.  In some ways it’s Henshaw’s movie and the denouement, which features him, is extremely moving.

I said it was a bit fantastical but the overall effect is fantastic.  At one moment gut wrenchingly violent.  The completely believable East end of Glasgow Gang culture that it’s set amidst is quite shocking at times, and at others it’s laugh out loud especially with its liberal use of top notch gratuitous swearing.

Don’t take your mother (although my mother had been the week before me and loved it!).

This is a great movie.  A certainty for award victories and a life affirming way to spend an afternoon or evening in the cinema.

8.5 out of 10.