I, Daniel Blake: Ken Loach and the scandal of Britain’s benefits system
From The Observer: Daniel Blake, 59, is a skilled craftsman. He has assets, but not the kind that the market rates highly since they have little monetary value: qualities such as integrity, honesty and compassion. In Ken Loach’s new film, I, Daniel Blake, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier this year, Blake’s attributes carry little weight in a system designed to pitch one human being (the bureaucrat) against another (the citizen temporarily in need of state support) at a time of “necessary” austerity.
In a meticulously researched script written by Paul Laverty, Loach’s collaborator for 20 years, Blake, a widower, has had a serious heart attack. What follows are his struggles with the benefits system and his growing friendship with a single parent, Katie, and her two children. After two years in a London hostel, Katie has been moved 300 miles to Newcastle because, allegedly, there is no housing in the capital – a city with 10,000 empty homes.
Katie has her benefits frozen, leaving her penniless, while Daniel, a man whose doctor says he is too ill to work, has to spend 35 hours a week applying for jobs he can’t take, on the orders of the jobcentre “work coach”. It is a surreal, dehumanised world in which empathy has little place and no allowance is made for the chaos of everyday life.