'I, Daniel Blake' is a heart-wrenching story that reflects our society (TIFF Review)
After having a heart attack, carpenter Daniel Blake is deemed unfit to work. But when applying for welfare he has to cut through the weed of bureaucracy that seems (purposely) never ending.
Daniel is a hard-working widower with a heart condition. His doctors told him he can't work anymore, so his only option is to apply for state welfare. But when applying, the girl taking care of his case just works off a standard questionnaire without any interest.
Unable to understand why he's denied benefits he returns to the office, only to go through the same defective system again. But then he meets Katie, the single mother of two kids, who just moved to the city from London. While she bumps into all the same walls set up by the state, Daniel decides to help the young mother while he has little else to do.
'I, Daniel Blake' won the Palme d'Or at Cannes earlier this year and it's easy to see why. The film hits home on many levels, and reflects on our society in an uncomfortably revealing way. It's a charming and sometimes funny story, led brilliantly by actor Dave Johns as Daniel. But also an extremely tragic one, as Hayley Squires plays Katie, who's almost starving so her children at least have something to eat.
While these struggling individuals are unable to get any welfare, Director Ken Loach puts the government at the opposite end of the spectrum. Insinuating private American companies are running the system and want to make it as hard as possible to get any money, so sick people will just leave and give up.
It shows that our society, hyper-focused on profit and economic success, forgets about certain groups that just can't keep up or don't fit into the systems we've set up. A sad realization with no easy answers or solutions.
You'd hope the right people will watch this film and see this is not just fiction, but likely reality for a big group of people. Because 'I, Daniel Blake' is not just a well acted and subtly brilliant directed film, it's also an important film to help us reflect on the way we're currently shaping our world.
'I, Daniel Blake' screened at #TIFF16 and will be released in the UK October 21, and in the US December 23 (limited).