Friday, October 21, 2016

I, Daniel Blake...

Moira and I went along to the Watershed this afternoon to see Ken Loach’s acclaimed film “I, Daniel Blake”. It’s the story of the friendship between an out-of-work, 59 year-old carpenter (Daniel Blake) and young single mother… who are both forced to navigate the challenges of the welfare system in Newcastle-on-Tyne.
Blake (brilliantly played by Dave Johns) is recovering from a heart attack, but not yet allowed (by his doctor and consultant) to return to work. As a result, he has to apply for Employment and Support Allowance… but, in its wisdom, the government has decreed that his benefits will be taken away unless he looks for work (but he can’t work because his doctors have said he can’t… etc etc). This is all made worse by the fact that all the required forms have to be completed online (and Daniel hasn’t a clue about computers).
You get the picture.
Meanwhile, Daniel befriends Katie (again, brilliantly played by Hayley Squires) at the local Jobcentre… she’s being messed around by the “system” (which has included her being relocated with her two children from a London homeless shelter) and he endeavours to intervene (unsuccessfully, of course).
They develop an unlikely, but very supportive, mutual alliance… but they struggle to avoid being crushed by the bureaucracy.
It’s a massively powerful, beautiful, sad, emotional (and, sometimes, even funny) film.
Yes, it’s Ken Loach (what would you expect?).
Yes, it’s ‘only’ a film.
But, sadly, it IS based on reality… people who genuinely struggle to provide for their families – many just managing thanks largely to foodbanks… and some who just don’t manage; people who struggle with farcical bureaucracy and with political ideologies. As Loach has said: “Few people are aware of what’s going on, and the scale of it, affecting hundreds of thousands of people, many of them feeling ashamed”.
Honest, hard-working, humble, good people.
It’s a film that will shock and sadden you.
It‘s a film about humiliation, degradation and despair.
And yet, it’s also a film about hope and goodness.
It’s a film that will probably make you cry and, if it’s anything like our experience today, it’s a film that the audience will applaud at the end (how many times does that happen?).
You definitely need to see this film… and so should all our politicians who deal with welfare and housing issues (Iain Duncan Smith has an awful lot to answer for)…
In fact, EVERYONE should see this brilliant film.

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