‘I, Daniel Blake’ focuses on the titular character, Daniel Blake, a carpenter of 40 years that is left jobless and forced to sign on to Job Seekers Allowance after the loss of his wife and subsequent heart attack.
The film may seem exaggerated or unbelievable to some people, but I know from first hand experience that it’s all real, the workers at the Job Centre do really treat people that way, make so many demands and force people to jump through hoops for what is barely a livable amount of money.
The fact that this film doesn’t shy away from showing not only that these job centres are vacuous husks with no emotional connection and a complete lack of empathy, but it also shows how deeply the people are affected. It shows a wide range, from a wheeler dealer determined not to be messed around by an employer, to a person trying their best to scrape together enough money to feed their kids.
It’s a powerful film and one that demands your attention as it gives you an unflinching look at real problems facing the unemployed of the UK. The film fights to battle the stigma put on the unemployed by the media, that they all are just living happily on benefits, cheating the system just so they don’t have to work. Of course there are some people like that but the film strives to also show you that there are good honest people out there that for one reason or another are forced to live on benefits.
The two central performances are breathtaking, Dave Johns and Hayley Squires deliver powerhouse performances that carry the film throughout an emotional rollercoaster and never once stop you believing that you are witnessing a glimpse inside the life of these people. It really is something to be applauded that these performances feel so natural, so genuine that you truly connect with the characters and empathise with their struggles.
It’s a testament to the film that while the ending is obvious, it still has such an emotional impact that you ignore the contrived ending and just are overwhelmed by such powerful emotions. This again is just amplified by some truly terrific performances.
There are a few little inconsistencies and a slight plot hole, but like the characters in the film, you can overlook the flaws and see what is fundamentally good about it.