I, Daniel Blake – A Powerfully Moving Film (Guest Review)

Hi there folks, it’s MovieManDan here again with another review for you all. This time we take a look at the new film I, Daniel Blake, the winner of last year’s PALME D’OR award at Cannes.

Plot: A 59-year-old carpenter recovering from a heart attack befriends a single mother and her two kids as they battle the impersonal, bureaucratic forces of the benefits system in order to receive the Employment and Support Allowance for which they feel they should be rightfully entitled to. British master Ken Loach won his second Palme d’Or at Cannes for this timely drama with equal amounts of humor, warmth and despair. (Mongrel Media)

Review: Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake” is a film that manages to achieve a unique tone and balance that very few films are able to successfully achieve today, offering an absolute roller coaster ride of emotions from beginning to end.  It managed to be funny at times while also frustrating at others and sometimes both. The film offers a rare emotional experience for its audience and it will have those who seek it out laughing and crying throughout. It is really a shame that it’s not finding the audience that it truly deserves here in North America but here’s hoping that more positive reviews like this one will urge some of you moviegoers into theater seats now that it’s finally getting a respectable release after so many months since its initial UK release under 7 months ago.  After all, there’s a reason that this film walked away with the prestigious Palme d’Or award last year.  This movie deserves widespread attention and it’s a shame that it’s getting almost no press or media attention here in North America.  You don’t even have to be a resident of the UK to appreciate this film and its story.

The performances here are all superb with a screenplay that happens to be one of the best in recent memory and the direction from Ken Loach is simply great. The way that the story sheds light on a deeply flawed UK system is truly powerful. Dave Johns is absolutely fantastic in the lead role as Daniel and it’s extremely hard to believe that this title wasn’t included in all the award talk from last fall. It clearly deserved to be in the conversation and it was an absolute shame that just about everyone with any influence dismissed it as it was more than worthy of award consideration.

Screenwriter Paul Laverty and director Ken Loach both succeeded at making you feel for the film’s leading characters and they make it very easy to become invested in the whole film as a result.  You really feel for these characters and their frustration, eventually taking on these feelings, something which doesn’t always happen with films. After awhile, it even gets to a point where it is easy to forget that you are watching actors on the screen. The bold ending here will leave some viewers outraged with the outcome and how these characters were treated as it is painful to know that their impossible lives is a harsh reality for some people – even today.  While the film features harsh language and themes, it is certainly understandable why some may still want to take the whole family out to this one.

My Score/Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars – Ken Loach’s Palme D’Or winning: “I, Daniel Blake” is a great British film that deserves as much North American attention as it can get. It is extremely well acted, written and directed, telling a powerful story while also commenting on a truly flawed system that affects thousands of citizens in the UK.  It is absolutely heartbreaking material but there is enough humor in there with it to break up these moments while maintaining a steady balance.  It’ll have you laughing and crying throughout and which is the sign of a truly great film. Please do yourself a favor and seek it out if you can. This is a truly great film and I can’t wait to see what Ken Loach brings out next. Whatever the subject he chooses, I’ll definitely be on board.

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