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“I, Daniel Blake”

By Howard McQuitter II

“I, Daniel Blake”

*****

“I, Daniel Blake” winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, is another example of director Ken Loach’s (“Cathy Come Home” [2006]), “Kes “[1969], “Ladybird, Ladybird” [1994) body of work as a master at giving the working-class their due on screen.

Daniel Blake (Dave Johns), 59, a widower and carpenter, from Newcastle, England (in northern England) has recently had a heart attack and told by his doctor he should take some time off. Things begin to get much worse when he makes his way to the harsh bureaucratic system. He goes to Jobcentre Plus and finds the people there cannot or will not help in his plight. While waiting there, he meets Katie (Hayley Squires), with two small children, who is getting the shaft too. Security personnel force Katie (and the two children) and Daniel too, out of the office when he stands up for her.

Daniel does an act of mercy by taking Katie and her two children to his place. Katie and the younglings are homeless just arrived from London. Katie’s landlord kicked her out when she complained of a leaky roof. All four form a strong bond in the desperate circumstances they face. They all have something in common being poor and up against a callous bureaucracy.

Daniel is eager to get back to work after getting nowhere at Jobcentre where he is told to reapply at Job Seeker’s Allowance. There he meets another snag, a Catch-22 , he is told he has to find work when his doctor hasn’t given the Okay to go back to work. Also, his meager income is almost out. Even at the Job Seeker’s office, Daniel doesn’t know how to use a commuter; he’s not tech savvy.

But the key to this film is at the beginning of “I, Daniel Blake”. Daniel calls the medical clinic and immediately tells the woman on the other end he’s had a heart attack, but she rattles off other questions. Frustrated, he asks, “Are you medically qualified?” Later in the film, Daniel remarks,” When you lose your self-respect, you’re done for.”

Mr. Loach’s focus on the failure of the medical world to help poor people in many instances is indeed a scandal. For many who have seen “I, Daniel Blake”, and for others who will see it in the future, it may be a surprise that the UK has flaws in its medical and employment areas similar to the US.

Dave Johns (Daniel Blake), Hayley Squires (Katie), Briana Shann (Daisy), Kema Sikazwe (China), Dylan McKiernan (Dylan), Sharon Percy (Sheila). Written by Paul Laverty. Director: Ken Loach. Running time: 100 minutes.

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