'I, Daniel Blake': A Penetrating Condemnation of the United Kingdom's Social Welfare System
I, Daniel Blake (2016) is a penetrating British drama about a middle-aged carpenter named Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) stuck in a cycle of unemployment after suffering a heart attack. Desperate to work yet unable to do so without doctor approval, the widowed Daniel is left to painstakingly attempt to navigate the United Kingdom's benefits system.
Set in Newcastle upon Tyne, the storyline follows Daniel's search for work despite his inability to accept a position—a disconnect between the schemes for state-sponsored sickness and state-sponsored unemployment benefits causing the discrepancy. Unable to properly qualify for either, Daniel falls between the cracks of a system too concerned with due process and procedure to properly consider his predicament. His sole accord comes in the form of a young single mother named Katie (Hayley Squires) and her two children, who he labors to assist through their own financial dilemma.
Directed by British filmmaker Ken Loach (Land and Freedom, The Wind That Shakes the Barley'), long a purveyor of social realism, I, Daniel Blake is a searing attack on the British welfare system and its myriad bureaucratic complications. Johns and Squires carry the weight of their characters' injustices with remarkable gravitas, with Johns practically searing the screen with the blistering force of his own indignity. An absorbing viewing experience set to anger and unnerve you, it's a unique cinematic allegory bound to stay with you long after the final credits have rolled.
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