I, daniel blake (2016)
once in a while, an inspired filmmaker takes on characters that society has all but abandoned, and yet these characters’ humanity is never purer than when they have gone through hell. the more the world has forgotten about these souls, the more unforgettable they become. i am thinking of a movie like lukas moodysson’s lilya-4-ever or joshua marston’s maria full of grace. i, daniel blake, director ken loach’s stirring 2016 palme d’or winner, is a superb addition to this genre. over the opening credits, daniel blake (dave johns in a towering performance), a 59-year-old newcastle carpenter who has had a heart attack at work and is on benefits, answers questions from an impervious government “decision maker” conducting a work capability assessment. to daniel’s shock, he is deemed fit to return to his job despite his physician’s instructions and therefore denied employment and support allowance, which leads to a kafka-meets-brazil bureaucratic appeal nightmare. i, daniel blake starts off as a familiar, even manipulative, “sob story,” except loach applies a lifetime of filmmaking skills to make every scene organic and resonant, as when daniel has to complete the simple task of filling out a form online. daniel has a habit of speaking up when he sees something isn’t right, but what makes the film so powerful is he is not a rebel by nature. he is a rule follower in a system that is already set up to fail him.
[review continued in comments]