DVD Review: I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake begins with a black screen and an unknown voice asking Daniel Blake a series of farcical questions to test his on going entitlement to a benefit. And so begins the slow (to begin with) and almost Monty Python tale of a proud man, who had a heart attack after loosing his wife, and is medically unfit for work, but can’t score the required 15 points to continue getting support from the Government.

He can of course appeal the decision, but no one will give him a time-frame of when this will happen. So he has to apply for the unemployment benefit, or literally stave or freeze to death. Of course being on the unemployment benefit means he will have to attend seminars on such wonders as creating your CV, and prove that he is spending 35 hours a week looking for work, which he is medically unfit to do.

During one of his visits to the local welfare office, Daniel meets Katie, a single mother, forced to move to a new city away from friends and family because the welfare house she was in was in a prime residential location. Now she’s being sanctioned for being late to her appointment, because in a new and unfamiliar city, she got on the wrong bus.

Daniel see’s the injustice and steps in to help, and they end up both getting kicked out of the office. But a strong friendship is born. And when Daniel realises that Katie is having to choose between school shoes for one of her two children and heating their home, Daniel leaves some of his much needed money with a note saying its for the power.

The system however keeps knocking Katie and Daniel down, and begins to affect them in different ways.

Director Ken Loach has created an emotional roller-coaster of a film that shines a searing light on the British welfare system, and its dehumanising approach. It is essential viewing as it shows just how vulnerable people are and how decisions not taken lightly can often be down to unavoidable circumstances rather than being greedy/lazy or stupid.

And if you do watch I, Daniel Blake (as I hope you will) don’t sit back smugly and think how lucky the less fortunate are that live in New Zealand, as from personal experience I can tell you that WINZ runs things pretty much the same way, and can be a lot harsher that what is portrayed in this film.

Make sure you have a box of tissues close by.

Rating: M Offensive language & adult themes.



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