Ken Loach’s latest in a line of insights into society, when a carpenter who recently had a major heart attack is denied the Employment and Support Allowance, he must attempt to follow the rules of a broken system in order to survive, meeting a young mother struggling to do the same along the way. Written by Paul Laverty and starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Sharon Percy, Brianna Shann and Dylan McKiernan.
The real success of the acting in this film is how genuine it feels, characters that seem as if they could be someone you might walk past down the street. Johns as Daniel Blake is wonderful, a man that has a big heart and a generous nature that simply can’t seem to get ahead in today’s world; you see all the emotion he has to give both in the better and the heart-breaking moments. Squires performance is equally outstanding and purely soul crushing with its indictment of the government’s lack of support for those who need it because of bureaucratic nonsense, every inch of the stress and hardship that the character is put through is right there for you to experience and it resonates right to the core of the audience. The two of them give portrayals that have you desperate to be able to reach right through the screen and help them, it’s almost difficult to describe how effective and moving they really are.
Ken Loach, with the help of writer Laverty, knows how to show us where we’re failing as a country, where we’re letting people unnecessarily suffer and portray it in such a way that will hit you like a freight train as you sit helplessly watching. At no point does it go over the top with dramatics or visuals, it stays firmly rooted to the ground and is utterly real and harrowing; it’s constantly shot clean, precise and sharp, it may not be glamorous but there’s still no denying it’s high quality. This is a film that will stick with you, it will make you think of your own life and what more you can do because it’s simply devastating to watch, it’s hard to put together the sheer brilliance with the discomfort of the experience but Loach does it so well, it may be difficult to watch but when the credits role you know you’ve seen something extremely worthwhile.
This may not be the film everyone wants to see, but it’s the film everyone should; it is downright heartbreaking but Ken Loach has created something that gets to the core of an important issue in Britain today and will open its audience’s eyes. This film is raw and gritty and harsh but it’s worth every minute.