Director Ken Loach recently said in an article in The Guardian “If you’re not angry, what kind of person are you”. After seeing his latest social realist film, I Daniel Blake, I certainly left the cinema feeling that this film had a goal of making people angry by bringing awareness to a part of our society which is wrong and has achieved it by a milestone. This was evident by everyone in the theatre staying for the credits and leaving at the same time.
Ken Loach continues to show us that even at the age of 80, he can still be the voice of the working class. Credit also must go to Loach’s writing partner Paul Laverty who just through the screenplay alone can shape drama to be as realistic as possible. Much like other Ken Loach social realist films, the screenplay is a case of showing life the way it is meant to be, which means realistic dialogue that you would hear daily and a camera that makes sure to follow the characters without resorting to a point and shoot style of cinematography.
The story that is presented to us in I Daniel Blake is incredibly emotional, like I said before everyone left the cinema at the same time, because the story was emotionally driven, the audience will have an emotional effect for when events take a turn for the worst for the characters. Speaking of which, Dave Johns plays the out of work Daniel Blake in a performance that encapsulate what we are all thinking and is also, very possibly, the kindest character to have graced cinema.
What this character does for mother of two Katie (played by Hayley Squires) will have you question how any person could give the time to help these people as much as he does. Daniel Blake essentially becomes an unofficial member of her family, he is welcomed at their table, he uses his carpentry skills to build furniture for the kids, it’s incredible how Paul Laverty can write a character to be the nicest person ever and for it to work on the screen.
These two characters being united by their struggles is Ken Loach’s very powerful way of showing the caring side of humanity as in the film, the people in the job centre and those who are helping him in a working environment speak to Daniel Blake as if to tell him he has to get used to the times he is living in whether he likes it or not. The film does well in telling us that although the modern generation of people can understand the online process of finding a job as easy as counting to ten, there are people out there, especially those coming from Daniel Blake’s generation, that have never had to use a computer to help them find a job or even write up a CV and they now have to adapt to this method or no help is coming to them.
The film’s editing is very basic except for the use of fade in and out during the most dramatically intense scenes, this allows all the emotional effect we felt from the scene to carry on over to the next, allowing the disgust to carry on throughout the film. Along with the short glimpses of fade in and outs, we also have music to accompany it. I would accept this in any other Ken Loach film, but I think we have reached a point in cinema where music shouldn’t be used as a cue for us to turn on the waterworks, the scenes would work just as well having no music at all.
The general rule for a social realist film is that in the end, nobody wins, and nothing has changed. While this type of ending would be shunned and slammed in a traditional Hollywood blockbuster, it is made exceptionally special when applied to a film that is trying to criticise a system that is flawed, because then it would make the more politically motivated audience member inspired to become more active in fixing the problem.
Ken Loach has ended his film on happy endings multiple times such as Looking for Eric, it where it doesn’t end well where he reveals his potential and brilliance as a director and while I’ll give no spoilers on the ending I will say that you will not be the same person when you walk out of the cinema.
I Daniel Blake reminded me that Ken Loach has still got so much more to give to us despite his age, I hope that he will continue to make films that are just as shocking as his last because I have seen many of his films many times, and I Daniel Blake could be ranked along with his 1969 classic Kes as the most impactful social realist film in Britain’s cinematic history.
Final Result: 10/10 – Masterpiece
Have you seen I, Daniel Blake? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below?
Next Time: Doctor Strange