Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning social drama about a widowed labourer has some piercing moments
I, DANIEL BLAKE (Ken Loach). 100 minutes. Opens Friday (May 5). See listing. Rating: NNN
Winner of the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, the latest from Ken Loach and regular screenwriter Paul Laverty is another of their signature social dramas, this time exploring Britain’s increasingly privatized (and increasingly apathetic) welfare system.
Erroneously deemed fit for work after a heart attack, widowed labourer Daniel (Dave Johns) wants only to correct that mistake and continue his recovery, but he’s thwarted at nearly every turn by clerks and middle managers determined to stick to a script. He befriends a younger single mother (Hayley Squires) who’s struggling to find work, and the two form an unlikely support system.
Like most of Loach and Laverty’s recent output, this is a solidly crafted drama with a couple of piercing moments. A scene with Squires at a food bank is almost too painful to watch. But it’s also a movie designed to make a point rather than tell a story, which means it sees its characters as symbols marching toward a predetermined ending rather than human beings. I wish I could believe the filmmakers were aware of that irony.