I, Daniel Blake (15)
From the creator of “Cathy Come Home” and “Kes”. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes 2016, this film is “a quietly fearsome piece of drama” (Telegraph) about a carpenter with a heart condition and his fight to find work and to keep his dignity. A gripping, human story, full of sharply observed social realism.
Ken Loach | UK/France/Belgium | 2016 | 100 mins | 15
It’s 50 years since Ken Loach raged against homelessness in his TV play ‘Cathy Come Home’. His latest film, garlanded with Baftas and a Cannes Palme d’Or, is infused with a quiet but righteous anger about the failings of the society in which he lives. It’s the story of the unlikely but tender friendship between Katie, a single mother from London with two kids, and Dan, a Geordie carpenter in his late 50s, who is out of work and recovering from a heart attack.
There are no histrionics here, few predictabilities and very little background music. Loach tells his story spare and straight, with the confidence of someone who knows that there is a story to tell and no bells and whistles. It’s a softly-spoken film in muted colours and unflashy, and this is what gives it its urgency. Katie and Dan (beautifully played by Hayley Squires and Dave Johns) both feel the sharp end of a shrinking welfare state. Katie has been forced to move her children north to Newcastle to find somewhere to live, while Dan is stuck in a nightmarish limbo between work, illness and benefits. He has never used a computer and most of the crucial forms must be filled out on-line. The language of impersonal governmental bureaucracy which runs through the film is often blackly comic, until it begins to sound threatening or even deadly. Loach sketches with compassion the growing humiliation felt by Dan and Katie; forces beyond them both are turning them into different people…….
As in most of Loach’s films the writer is Paul Laverty, whose eye for detail – bubble-wrap on windows, candle-powered heaters, dodgy trainers and the gripping food-bank scene) intensify the drama. The gritty, realistic narrative packs a hefty punch, and sends its message with some humour, and a lot of passion.