I, Daniel Blake
Panorama | Special Presentations
Rumours of his retirement having been greatly exaggerated, the masterful Ken Loach, now 80, returns with this emotionally shattering critique of inequality in Britain’s welfare system. Widowed and childless, Daniel Blake (Dave Johns, a stand-up comic giving the performance of a lifetime) is a 59-year-old carpenter in Newcastle who has suffered a heart attack and is living on benefits provided by the state—until, that is, British social services cuts off his benefit allowance. It seems the system has decided Daniel is fit for work, despite the fact that his personal physician has vehemently stressed the contrary. As Loach follows Daniel’s increasingly desperate attempts to reverse the state’s decision, we are given an unflinching picture of a country in crisis and a decidedly humane portrait of those being abused by a system that is meant to serve them.
“One of Loach’s finest films, a drama of tender devastation that tells its story with an unblinking neorealist simplicity that goes right back to the plainspoken purity of Vittorio De Sica… If I, Daniel Blake had been made 20 or 30 years ago, the personalities of those in the welfare office might have been more colourfully villainized. But the film’s despair arises out of its perception that it’s the whole impersonal system that’s to blame… The quiet beauty of [the film]—the reason it’s the rare political drama that touches the soul—is that we believe, completely, in these people standing in front of us, as Ken Loach and the actors have imagined them. And when the movie ends, we feel like we won’t forget them.”—Owen Gleiberman, Variety
Palme d’Or, Cannes 16