50 years on from the seminal Cathy Come Home, Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty return with another investigation of the current nature of the welfare state. Following a heart attack, Daniel (Dave Johns) tries to navigate his way through the unfamiliar world of our benefits system while convalescing on the advice of his doctors. “… as Daniel struggles with the almost Kafka-esque bureaucracy of modern Britain’s Department for Work and Pensions – endless waits on the phone, digital-by-default demands made even of those who’ve never once used a computer, patronising staff, unhelpful jargon, dark threats of sanctions – the movie simply focuses on the protagonist’s determined, even obstinate attempts to avoid poverty and potential homelessness while retaining his humanity intact: namely, self-respect, dignity and kindness to others.” Geoff Andrew, Sight and Sound
Dir: Ken Loach 100mins UK/Fr/Bel 2016
Tonight’s film is co-presented with Abingdon Quakers and introduced by Fran Bennett, of Oxford and District Action on Child Poverty. Fran is a senior research and teaching Fellow in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at Oxford University.
With the roll-out of Universal Benefit, this is a timely screening of a film by the director best known in Britain for addressing social issues from a left-wing perspective – perhaps his most famous title being the BBC TV drama Cathy Come Home (1969), often said to have put the scandalous treatment of homeless people high on the political agenda. I, Daniel Blake
displays the immense difficulties an individual can face trying to obtain social security support. Loach has often found it hard to fund his films in Britain but is revered by many cinephiles in France, whence the money has often come.
The film clearly struck a nerve in certain (reactionary) quarters. For example, writing in the Daily Mail, Toby Young said “I’m no expert on the welfare system but several aspects of I, Daniel Blake don’t ring true. The two protagonists are a far cry from the scroungers on Channel 4’s Benefits Street, whom I accept aren’t representative of all welfare recipients but
Loach has erred in the opposite direction. For a filmmaker who styles himself a ‘social realist’, he has an absurdly romantic view of benefit claimants. Daniel is a model citizen – at no point do we see him drinking, smoking, gambling or even watching television. No, he is a welfare claimant as imagined by a member of the upper middle class metropolitan
elite. He listens to Radio 4, likes classical music and makes wooden toys for children – the kind of over-priced ‘artisanal’ tat sold in the ‘alternative’ toyshops in Islington, where Loach lives”
In contrast to this vituperative and mean-minded polemic from Young, himself a privately educated and unashamed member of the upper middle class metropolitan elite, Owen Gleiberman wrote in Variety “I, Daniel Blake is one of Loach’s finest films, a drama of tender devastation that tells its story with an unblinking neo-realist simplicity that goes right back to
the plain-spoken purity of Vittorio de Sica”
We leave you to make up your own mind which of these judgements best epitomises tonight’s film ….
Daniel Blake – Dave Johns
Hayley Squires – Katie Morgan
Dylan McKiernan – Dylan Morgan
Brianna Shann – Daisy Morgan
Ann – Kate Rutter
Director – Ken Loach
Producer – Rebecca O’Brien et al.
Screenplay – Paul Laverty
Cinematography – Robbie Ryan
Original Music – George Fenton
- Super film – very moving
- One of Loach’s best!
- One of Ken’s best – we know it’s happening but we don’t know the answers
- Great film – terrible situations brilliantly captured
- Moving, powerful and thought provoking
- Powerfully expressed view of our brutal treatment of vulnerable people
- Appalling – people treated like dogs
- Powerful and depressing
- An important piece of work, regardless of any personal experience of the benefits system. The central performances were excellent and Fran’s introduction provided a political context that illustrated the film’s scenario in a nuanced way
- A point well made – it all stems from Thatcher!
- Well acted and very powerful
- The (welfare) state in a right old state!
- As a reasonable person, I found the premise of the film hard to get over. How can some one be assessed fit for work when their GP says they are not? Yet it seems it does happen ….
- It was horrible to see all the hateful things the system threw at Daniel. A moving film with positive interactions between Daniel and many other characters. Some improbable events near the end.
- Excellent piece of drama about the many difficulties faced by poor people but I was not convinced it gave a fair representation of the benefits system. It was very suspicious that all the benefits staff were much harsher than everyone else and the claimants were all ‘angels’
- Not a Loach fan in general, I tried really hard to like this film. Rather too much speechifying for my taste but, even so, stilted and slow-moving. Very unlikely tale to me – admittedly, my experience of Social Security is 30 years out-of-date – but I can’t imagine an officer ever speaking to a claimant like that. Characters rather cliched – grizzled but honourable widower, brave young single mother, ‘jack-the-lad’ neighbours
- As some one who has suffered the JobCentre Plus (system) for years, I have to agree that the the nice, sympathetic (benefits) worker was unrealistic
- Poor sound again