The winner of the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival follows a middle-aged, blue-collar carpenter struggling to navigate the bureaucracy of the British benefits system after an injury leaves him unable to work.
As the film opens, Daniel (stand-up comedian Dave Johns) is answering ridiculous, circular questions from a government health-care agent. With his thick, musical accent, he can’t help but respond with humor and incredulity in the face of the agent’s cluelessness. This truly is just the beginning for Daniel, who runs into an even more maddening battle when British authorities deny his benefits and tell him to return to his job. As he navigates his way through an agonizing appeal process, he develops a strong bond with a struggling single mother (Hayley Squires) who’s doing everything she can to take care of her two children. In each other, Daniel and Katie find what is lacking in the outside world — mutual sympathy, compassion, and respect. With I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach rails against the system with his trademark style of stripped-down social realism, and at 80 years old, his rage is unmistakable. Through focusing on the stories of ordinary citizens, he uses the medium for one of its most crucial purposes: to shine a light on injustices he sees around him, as well as on our capacity for human decency.
(UK / 2016 / Directed by Ken Loach)
R / 1 hr 40 mins.