I, Daniel Blake (15) – A Preview


Directed by Ken Loach, UK, 2016, 100 mins
With Dave Johns, Haley Squires, Sharon Percy

After the whimsy of Angel’s Share and the sentimentality of Jimmy’s Hall there were whispers that Ken Loach was quietly losing his edge. As if in response, BAFTA winning I Daniel Blake is one of his most uncompromising films for years. Angry, polemical and impassioned, this is a proper Ken Loach movie, the like of which we haven’t seen since the turn of the century.

Dave Johns, who plays the eponymous lead to perfection, is probably best known for his stand-up comedy – he’s performed in Diss more than once and to great acclaim – and although there should be little to chuckle about in Daniel Blake’s life, Johns’s comic timing brings a stoic wit to a role that might otherwise be hard to bear. He is supported by a legion of fine actors in tiny roles, most notably Kema Sikazwem, as the canny best friend, and Hayley Squires as the archetypal struggling Mum. Together they leaven the bleak farce of claiming benefits with glimpses of feisty resilience, good humour and straightforward decency.

Unapologetically partisan, the film has inevitably attracted criticism – not least from the staff of the office in which it was filmed – but to do so surely misses the point. Ken Loach’s political views are no secret, and not everyone will agree with them, but his ability to craft such an incendiary vehicle for those views must surely be applauded. Whether you end up angry with him, or at him, this is story- telling at its most committed and personal.

David Vass

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