Ken Loach, the champion of social realist cinema and mouthpiece for the British working class, crafted a powerful and gut-wrenching account of the devastation wrought upon voiceless individuals through the outsourcing of state welfare to for-profit organizations, in I, Daniel Blake. Packed with emotional wallop, deep empathy and stirring political punch, the film had evoked a passionate response in Britain upon its release, as it rightly should; and, that its relevance went beyond national boundaries, made it all the more poignant and pertinent. The opening sequence – wherein a “health service professional” decides over phone, through inane Q&A, that 59-year old widower Daniel Blake (Dave Johns), who’s suffered a stroke and has been forbidden from employment by his doctor, that he’s fit to work and hence ineligible for support – immediately established the utter ludicrosity of the situation and brilliantly set the context for what followed. The increasingly agitated, frustrated, humiliated and helpless Daniel fights a lonely battle against the heartless system, and ends up getting trapped inside a Kafkaesque nightmare; and this inevitably takes him towards heartbreaking consequences instead of helping him out. Meanwhile, as ironic silver linings to his bleak state of affairs, he befriends single mother Katie (Hayley Squires) who’s been pushed to the edge of her resolve, and a young hustler who’s decided to subvert the system that wants to keep him tied down. Both Johns and Squires were magnificent, and the deliberately low-key portrayal of their existences was both authentic and moving – aspects which took the film to a moment of brief epiphany but an ultimately heartbreaking finale. Loach therefore defiantly expressed, through this, both rousing dissent and a stunning indictment against wanton neo-liberalism and state apathy.
Director: Ken Loach
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Political Drama