Political film? Heartfelt call to arms? Ken Loach returns with I, Daniel Blake; Darren reviewed it.
The views expressed in this review do not necessarily reflect those of Big Picture Reviews.
We here at Big Picture Reviews do not give scores to documentaries, and for very good reason. Scores are inherently flawed in their purpose, being merely a quick tool for entertainment and readability. But in the case of using these on documentaries, it feels wrong. That said, I cannot give I, Daniel Blake a score, much like I could not give 12 Years A Slave a score. I can barely review them. While neither of these movies are documentaries, they both capture what a lot of ‘fiction’ aspires to: Truth in essence.
Daniel is an out of work carpenter driven to applying for government assistance due to a heart condition. When new regulation in the government means that despite doctor’s orders Daniel is deemed ‘fit for work’, he must struggle to survive with no money and the inability to get a job in Tory Austerity Britain. There he goes on a nightmarish Kafkaesque journey to get what he needs to survive while seeing just how low the uncaring Tory system drags both him and the people around him.
This is a political film. There is no other way to describe it. A startling and honest picture of the life of the proletariat, under Conservative Britain; under austerity. For our American audience, I can imagine that what this movie is saying is just that; a tale, span by a talented director. For others, this strikes very close to home.
I could pick apart this movie, talk about how the direction is crisp, the story is undeniably human in its feeling. How the actors are warm and scared and vulnerable. But to go into greater detail feels like a betrayal. How can I treat this like a story? How can you distance yourself from something like this and blasé remark upon its merits or flaws? I have not reached that level of objectivity.
Like Elephant or the above mentioned 12 Years a Slave, context is everything and I truly believe that this is one just for the UK. That the times it described and events passingly mentioned can only be truly lived and felt with the heart aching despair it calls for, by those of us who live in this terrible climate.
Like 12 Years, this movie is an ordeal; both for the characters and for the audience. You are not meant to enjoy it, you are not meant to sit in silence for a few hours then toddle off back home, never thinking about it again. You sit there and you toil, you gasp and shudder. You flinch at the harsh terms and the despicable actions. You sympathise with the struggle and the decisions. You feel raw by the end of it, dragged through the experience, bloodied as you are frayed. You are barely more than feeling at this point, what humanity you have is screaming.
In many ways this review is flawed, I cannot be impartial; my own political views shape it just as Loach’s has shaped the movie. But even if you don’t agree with me, about benefit culture or the Tory government or even the price of milk: watch this movie. UK audiences, particularly those on the mainland, owe it to themselves to see it. Dreg up some vestige of humanity and suffer. Suffer like they have and continue to. Even if it is only for two hours.