Granted the prestigious Palme d’Or award at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, veteran British director Ken Loach’s film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ showcases a fictional representation of Britain’s dysfunctional social welfare system. Through the perspective of a blue-collar working class man, this is a sobering film that reflects on modern Britain’s rising socio-economic issues and how the effects of sudden poverty can plague a person’s well-being.
Based on the interviews and findings of screenwriter Paul Laverty, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ features the enthralling story of a 59-year-old carpenter, Daniel (Dave Johns) from Newcastle who is struggling to appeal for his state welfare benefits after recovering from a near-fatal heart attack. In order to reclaim the state’s assistance, Daniel is ordered to show proof that he’s currently looking for a job, but due to his poor health, cannot continue with laborious work.
Daniel is now caught between a vicious cycle within the loopholes of the British welfare system; a true misfortune that millions of British citizens experience each year. With no further form of income and at risk of homelessness, this film takes on a grueling journey of inescapable processes towards Daniel’s welfare claims. In the hands of the bureaucratic system and technologically illiterate, Daniel struggles with the newfound digital era – from endless waiting helplines to filling application forms. It all proves overwhelming for him in the end and he takes his chances with the grim local Jobcentre.
In the midst of it all, Daniel encounters single mother-of-two, Katie (Hayley Squires) who has also been denied welfare benefits after moving out from a homeless shelter in London. Fueled by his frustration at the welfare system, good-hearted Daniel defends Katie’s claims after the officials deem it as a complaint and excuse. Daniel befriends Katie and helps repair her new home – with no prospects or income, the two banded together as an oddball surrogate family, Daniel being the handyman and grandfatherly figure to the two children.
As the story progresses, Katie’s hardships began to show as she deals with the harsh realities of poverty whilst raising two young children. From the constantly distressed look on her face to sacrificing her own food for the children; it shows there are no bounds to a mother’s devotion..But, everyone has a breaking point, and to Katie, it’s the moment she succumbs to hunger at the food bank. A scene of pure heartache as Katie loses all dignity due to the effects of starvation. Daniel supports her through thick and thin despite his own similar situations; highlighting how important a person’s humanity and sincerity is amongst those who need it the most.
‘I, Daniel Blake’ is arguably one of the most significant films that have been released in Britain for 2016, it emphasizes the saddening truth of a broken bureaucratic system that has left so many people in dire situations. Loach delivers this evocative epiphany of social realism to the public eye, a reminder that we’re not just members of a class in society or complaints with identity numbers, but individuals that deserve help when we need it, we are, Daniel Blake.