I, Daniel Blake (2016)

i_daniel_blake

We watched I, Daniel Blake, a 2016 British-French production, on New Year’s Eve afternoon. It was awarded in various international film festivals (e.g. Cannes Film Festival, Stockholm International Film Festival, San Sebastián International Film Festival) and a couple nominations are still pending (for example the British Independent Film Awards). We couldn’t have chosen a better way to end 2016 cinema-wise…

Daniel Blake is a 60-year-old woodworker. He has had a heart attack during work and, whilst recovering, he survives by receiving an Employment and Support Allowance, meant for those unable to work due to an illness or disability. When his case is re-evaluated, the company responsible for the evaluations rates Daniel as eligible for work, despite of his doctor’s concerns, thus suspending his allowance. He is then forced to apply for Jobseekers Allowance and start looking for a job, entering himself in an absurd vicious circle.

Katie is a young mother of two who moved from a homeless shelter in London to Newcastle, in a house without electricity or heating. Her being late at a Jobcenter meeting leads to getting sanctioned, so her benefits are stopped. Daniel helps her as much as he can raising her two children by herself, without receiving any help.

The film triggered quite a few discussions in the UK, not only among viewers, but between politicians as well. For example, Iain Duncan Smith, former Work and Pensions Secretary, judged the film as “unfair”, portraying the Jobcenter employers as ruthless, him not seeing the forest for the trees. The film doesn’t comment on people working in such centers, but the institution itself; it’s not a people-oriented issue, but an organisational problem. When evaluations are being handled by private companies and realised in an automatic way, their results are nothing but doubtful. Is all this bureaucracy meant to discourage people and make them quit trying?

A well-directed film, with great acting from everyone cast. Although I did find certain script choices a little bit weak, it’s a great experience overall. It might seem like it’s a film that would mainly interest UK citizens, but I believe that everyone should watch it, in order to rethink whether other European countries can indeed be considered as lands of milk and honey…

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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