Review: I, Daniel Blake – highlights the uncomfortable truth

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After winning the Palme D’or – the oldest recipient in the award‘s history – Ken Loach is back in UK cinemas this week with I, Daniel Blake, a story of the titular Tyneside joiner (Dave Johns) kicked from pillar to post by a faceless, uncaring establishment after suffering a debilitating heart attack.

‘The film could be seen to act as a standard-bearer capable of doing what few films dare to – hold an uncomfortable mirror up against a consciously cruel state’

The film is likely to be as polarising as much of Loach’s work, if not even more so due to the climate in which it is being released. Depending on one’s political persuasion the film could be seen to act as a standard-bearer capable of doing what few films dare to – hold an uncomfortable mirror up against a consciously cruel state – or to be a trite and manipulative piece of bleeding-heart leftie socialist propaganda. The care Loach has taken to avoid seeming disingenuous, however, makes it hard to believe it is too much of the latter, and rather than sensationalise, what his film does is cast light on an uncomfortable truth.

Any potential distractions from the film’s message such as a score, flashy camera-work and editing, or recognisable actors, are utterly absent. The camera keeps a very respectful distance from its subjects to lay bare the drama of scenes undiluted by other factors, becoming most effective in an already somewhat infamous scene at a foodbank which reduced much of the audience at the screening I attended to tears, covering their aghast mouths with their hands in horrified pathos.

‘an already somewhat infamous scene at a foodbank… reduced much of the audience at the screening I attended to tears’

Loach has created a film far greater than the sum of its individual parts. Not dazzling, but firmly clear in vision, not loud, but wilful to be heard, and not dogmatic, but resoundingly true. I, Daniel Blake is a not just an excellent film, but for the world we live in, deserves to be recognised as an important one.

Jonathan Atkison

(Image courtesy of eOnefilms)

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