I. Daniel Blake proves an emotional rollercoaster at British Film Festival


Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan and Briana Shann in I, Daniel Blake.
Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan and Briana Shann in I, Daniel Blake.

ANYONE who has dealt with Centrelink, baffling government bureaucracy and red tape or been kept on hold for an hour will relate to I, Daniel Blake.

Middle-aged carpenter and widower Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) in northeast England is put on bed rest by his doctor after he suffers a heart attack.

Turning to the government for financial support while he recovers, those that assess his application deem him fit for work and therefore he must go on dole payments and look for employment.

The process means hours in waiting rooms, icy government admin officers and baffling digital technology while the bills pile up.

Daniel befriends single mother of two Katie (Hayley Squires), who has been uprooted from her run-down public housing home in London and relocated without friends or family for support and is struggling to feed her kids.

The two offer each other the support they cannot find from the government.

You feel every frustration of Daniel’s experience, laugh in utter disbelief at every injustice and clench your fists in anger.

Daniel, who can’t use a computer, asks a department employee if there is a phone number he can call for assistance and is told there is, and he will find it online.

It is a depressing state of affairs and an eye-opening exploration of how clinical the system is. One employee who offers Daniel a hand is reprimanded.

But I, Daniel Blake is as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking, because at its core it is about compassion and helping others unconditionally.

One minor quibble is that in the second half of the story, new plot elements are introduced that add to the drama but are not resolved.

I, Daniel Blake screens as part of the British Film Festival, from October 27 to November 16.

THE ESSENTIALS

I, Daniel Blake (M)

Directed by: Ken Loach

Starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Sharon Percy

Four and a half stars

Review by Julian Wright