An unemployed man converses with an employed woman, only their voices fill up the black screen. One end clearly misunderstands the needs of her client, just like the business-minded telephone operators we know all too well. The man being berated is named Daniel Blake, and these types of meetings occur daily for him. Too long now he has sought after regular employment, yet his poor health legally prohibits him from that end goal.
We all know the government’s tendency to mistreat whomever struggles to attain work, a reality amplified through a megaphone by the veteran British director Ken Loach in his weepy drama, I, Daniel Blake. The UK already widely respects Loach, but for those in the US, his work deserves intense study. Every quiet image he crafts pleases the analytical eye, especially his many gorgeous compositions of Daniel walking hands in pockets through the streets. Throughout the somewhat short runtime, Loach makes you lose track of how many minutes pass by as the events tie into a complete account of a man who laughed at defeat in the face.
In the first half, Daniel Blake’s search offers some nice chuckles structured amongst agitation with authorities who hold back their listening ears. By the second half, Daniel’s desperation handcuffs you to his ankles as he runs in circles. After surviving jingle after jingle of incompetent phone operators, Daniel’s desperation leaves him furious at everyone, including a random passerby whose dog takes a dump in front of his home. Then after a chance meeting in the unemployment office, the mood starts to change. He meets a young single mother named Katie whom the specialists bully around worse than him, so Daniel channels his frustration into compassion as he offers help in her embarrassment of a home. Daniel soon lightens the mood by teaching her son and daughter how to stay warm with bubble wrap and flower pots. Now neither one of them have to individually obtain financial stability alone.
Though despite the temporary positivity, things still go from worse to unbearable. The character study rings true to how job services work: Daniel learns how to use a computer, and Katie suffers a mental breakdown at a food bank. The absence of financial income gradually destroys each of their complexions; Daniel seems grow older as the film goes on; it causes you to think, “Wow, I have been there before. I wish I could help somehow.”
At least Daniel Blake can offer one gift outside the workforce with his homemade wooden fish mobile, which he uses to inspire the children’s self-worth. Yet woodcarving does not fulfill the children’s miserable predicament; their tiny home of peeled wood and tile pales against the cold steel of the employment service offices. It turns you desperate as the well-fed authorities stroke their own egos.
In fact, Ken Loach presses a little too much hate toward authority by beautifying unlawful rebellion from the poor. A subplot about Daniel’s Black neighbor selling counterfeit shoes contributes little to the plot, besides throwing in a last resort to gaining profit that never receives a rightful punishment. These shoes were acquired by a liaison from China, which in turn worsens the reputation of the already disrespected country. The same goes to anyone above the lower class: an excessively negative shadow casts over their poor productivity; a fair analysis finds no balance between both sides of the issue.
On the other hand, Loach’s piece of well-researched propaganda might very well be the wake-up call the Jobseekers Allowance needs to see our perspective of their industry. Too few jobs exist for nationwide fulfilment; the system must change.
Landing a job in our present era is unimaginably hard for anyone, whether the elderly, new parents, or young adults such as myself. The journey may feel endless, we may even want to practice alternate illegal solutions. Therefore, I, Daniel Blake deserves a watch by all who suffer. Although no one should expect a typical Hollywood ending, a satisfactory solution to life’s purpose as a citizen will remind you, the reader, of your power, no matter what the government expects you to think.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
I, Daniel Blake. Entertainment One, LTD. Web. <http://www.idanielblake.co.uk/>.
Sundance Selects. “'I, Daniel Blake'.” Digital image. No Film School. No Network, 9 Jan 2017. Web. <http://nofilmschool.com/2017/01/paul-laverty-interview-i-daniel-blake>.