I, Daniel Blake Screen 83 of 25 reviews

I, Daniel Blake

2016

I, Daniel Blake Poster
  • One of the most important films of 2016; there couldn’t be a more timely moment for a film about the value of citizenship, and to issue a protest against the increasingly powerful dehumanizing forces of what you might call “client culture”... It’s a drama very precisely about the present moment in the U.K.; but its resonances are much broader, and it will strike a chord in any culture where people are experiencing economic hard times.

  • There is something thrilling about Loach’s dedication to exposing the horror and mind-numbing pointlessness of bureaucracy with as little drama as possible. Audiences are supposedly always looking for something relatable. Loach has identified the last universal subject: filling out forms online. The anger the film generates shuts off delight in entertainment, an exemplary side effect of the film’s agenda.

  • With I, Daniel Blake, his latest film and one of his finest, Loach’s talent for humour runs through the entire work. Here austerity politics is rendered both absurd and abusive in what the title character calls a “monumental farce”, which might be funny if it weren’t true.

  • In his familiar way Loach gives an edifying example of (non-)working class solidarity, yet the jolting moments are the almost documentary-like observations of how the welfare state works in the age of efficiency: Paul Laverty, Loach’s long-time screenwriter, is at his best in turning the technocratic lingo of the desk people into Leviathanesque oracles, often referring to an ominous ‘decision maker’ whose redemptive call never seems to get through to poor Daniel.

  • Loach has made an effectively upsetting film about a sickly welfare state, no less melodramatic for being entirely plausible.

  • “I, Daniel Blake,” the winner of the 2016 Palme d’or at Cannes and the best film in many years from British stalwart Ken Loach, sums up the bureaucratic miseries of digital-era England in this tale of disabled worker waging a Kafkaesque battle to get his health benefits.

  • Loach crafts all of this with patience and anger; scarcely a fashionable trait with most movie buffs, his bleak naturalism looks more valuable than ever.

  • After the relatively frivolous features Jimmy’s Hall and The Angel’s Share, Loach here returns to his bread-and-butter: unflinching depictions of the depredations suffered by the working-class under capitalism... Subtlety, of course, has never been Loach’s forte; thankfully, the overegged denouement does nothing to mar this emotionally arresting indictment of the degrading effects that neoliberal economics has on human lives.

  • Dave Johns’s Daniel is instantly winning, and his grandiloquent and exasperated arias of disgust with the social service system are pretty well tuned to the actual experience of sitting in a fluorescent-lit labyrinth of cubicles. The film’s most devastating scene, one of the single greatest moments in all the films I saw in Cannes, involves a young mother (Hayley Squires) befriended by Daniel and takes place in a food bank—again, to describe it would spoil the impact.

  • ...Ken Loach’s moving and surprisingly unpreachy I, Daniel Blake, in which a Newcastle working man, sidelined after a heart attack, forges an unusual friendship with a young single mother.

  • The blindsiding you get here is grief for what has been allowed to happen to Britain’s once-magnificent welfare state. If you weep, as I did, it may be as much to do with terror about what remaining prop to human dignity may be kicked away next as it is to do with straightforward human empathy for people being screwed to the ground by the UK’s computer-automated benefits system.

  • There’s something slyly poetic at work here. You sense it in the constant references to the unseen "decision-maker" who seems to govern Dan’s life, and whose communiques come in either form letters or automated recordings or sometimes not at all. And you feel it in the film’s overall trajectory, as Dan and Kate both reach their breaking points. This is Loach — the humorist, the dramatist, the activist — firing on all cylinders. And it’s nice to have him back, though I have no idea for how long.

  • Half a century on from Cathy Come Home, and ten years after The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Ken Loach has made what is arguably his finest film since that Palme d’or-winner. While it’s certainly true that there are few surprises in Paul Laverty’s script – or indeed in Loach’s characteristically forthright direction – there is no denying either the utter relevance or the emotional power and political punch of the movie.

  • It’s easy to forget that his films are hilarious. When they’re not screaming at indifferent and hostile government agents, Daniel and Katie eke out some valuable downtime, which are both casually warm and often quite funny. They’re great together and apart; Squires is a particular revelation and one of 2016’s best breakthroughs. Then there are those times that Loach and Laverty simply go too far. Still, even when they do, they always find a way back.

  • Katie’s story heads in a more conventionally melodramatic direction, allowing Daniel to save her from herself in schematic fashion. This is after all a film not above parading a three-legged dog in front of the camera. Where I, Daniel Blake excels is in portraying the incremental dehumanization of the state’s endless assessment process, which is particularly unforgiving of older citizens who might not know how to even use a computer (Daniel has apparently never wielded a mouse before).

  • There is a raw urgency to the film, not to say a disposability, which disavows an egotistical tilt at any kind of long-term artistic legacy. The film is designed—to borrow a phrase from American labor union lore—to educate, and partly to agitate. One even feels that if everyone were to see I, Daniel Blake once, but never again, Loach would be entirely content.

  • Loach survived WWII and Thatcher and lived long enough to see Brexit. He has every reason to be disappointed in people. And yet he’s one of the few people left in the world who believes you owe someone respect when you choose to point a camera at them, and that respect is always on screen. I, Daniel Blake shows off the best and worst of Ken Loach’s direction, just as he so frequently showed the highs and lows of human compassion.

  • It’s hard to consider Loach’s film—probably one of his best in the baker’s dozen for what it’s worth, thanks to a vital topic and an above-average script from Paul Laverty—in a vacuum, nor does he want it to be seen that way.

  • It's nowhere near the best thing that competed for this year’s prestigious tree branch... That said... Daniel Blake is a solid Palme recipient, insofar as it looked for a bit like it was going to something a whole helluva lot worse, and its message about people being dehumanized by strict government welfare protocols, obvious and familiar and didactically-delivered as this message may be here, is a good one to benefit from the award’s amplificative function.

  • "I, Daniel Blake" maintains a core authenticity that elevates it above the garden variety kitchen sink routine. It's an ideal vehicle for Loach's agenda — far more so than "Jimmy's Hall." If indeed Loach is winding down, "I, Daniel Blake" forms a more appropriate vessel for his chief skill. It's a touching story that would seem altogether familiar if weren't also loaded with urgency.

  • Problem is, Loach is still working with screenwriter Paul Laverty, [who] has an unfortunate tendency to get ludicrously didactic in the home stretch. The last half hour practically turns into Les Misérables, with Katie predictably turning to prostitution and Daniel’s saga resolved via cheap dramatic irony. The movie is plenty affecting when it sticks to credible, low-key difficulties faced with weary decency; there was no need to crank the pathos up to 11 and throw a full-scale pity party.

  • Yes, Loach brings the issue to life by nurturing moving performances from a relatively green cast, especially Johns and lead actress Hayley Squires in their first major screen roles. But the film also follows an incredibly predictable narrative line that leaves little room for complexity or surprise. Like so many of its kind, I, Daniel Blake often feels more like a diagram than a film.

  • [In the final reel,] we can feel Laverty closing the lid on us, as if time's up and we need to take out our pencils and refer to our study guides. This is all the more irksome because there is a great deal of poetry in the margins of Loach's film.

  • It should surprise no one that the Palme d'Or-winning I, Daniel Blake is a staunch antagonism of bureaucratic institutions that prevent blue-collar Brits from earning the livable wages they deserve. But it should also come as not much of a surprise, sadly, that the filmmaker's latest is pockmarked by a lot of the same conservative dramatic conventions and broad political emotional gestures that have marred much of his work over the years, but particularly his recent output.

  • As usual for Loach, this is cinema as a blunt instrument, used to hit hard and without much grace or sense of direction. It’s a largely artless work which takes no risks with its visual language and never thinks to show when it can tell. A subplot involving a young neighbour selling counterfeit trainers is entirely forgotten about, while Loach never once seems to believe that less might just be more.

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