Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake
Dan Johns and Hayley Squires

Rated: R for language.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: December 23, 2016 Released by: Sundance Selects

Another triumph for Ken Loach (Looking For Eric, The Wind That Shakes The Barley) with writing partner Paul Laverty concerns the British welfare system set in Newcastle.

I, Daniel Blake is an indictment of it with the filmmaker's gesturing and use of a genre perhaps a little off-putting to some. Yet, it is truly penetrating with a muted color scheme in its simple, yet effective way.

Dan Johns is quite good in Loach's semi-professional ensemble as the eponymous crestfallen character who displays heart and perseverance in a frustrating situation. Daniel is middle-aged, a widower and seen fit to work again as a carpenter after a heart attack when he should get disability relief or an allowance. But, he has to trudge to look for work for almost a regular week's worth of hours when he probably won't be able to accomplish if meriting the opportunity. He only wants to correct a mistake.

The obstacles are many as the bureaucracy includes mid-level managers and clerks to face, yet this well-composed tale from the quintessential 'social realist' has integrity, heart, and wit throughout in navigating a punitive, disaffected national organization.

Meeting a young single mother (Hayley Squires) who has relocated a long way to find adequate housing for her family while toiling to get work turns out to be the best thing for our jaded, but steely protagonist. He'll come to her aid when security attends to her at the local office and when an issue with heat comes up at her abode. Loach again presses the right buttons unaffected naturalism that includes its share of salty language.

But, it all makes poignant sense in an improbable joint safety net (Johns and Squires make a fine pair) which hopefully will garner the kind of word-of-mouth that this drama deserves. In spite of what detractors emphasizing its fixed symbolism over sensible storytelling.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Matt Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
I, Daniel Blake        B+                     B+ 

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