4.5 stars
After a long and celebrated career that includes some of Britain’s most highly regarded films, a couple of wins at Cannes and Berlin plus a slew of other awards, social-realist filmmaker Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes The Barley) has crafted what is quite possibly his most distinguished film yet.
I, Daniel Blake is a story of our time that with surprising warmth and compassion nails the experience of millions the world over, side-lined by the social mechanism when circumstance conspires against them.

In Blake’s case, it’s a minor heart-attack. He’s a construction worker forced to rely on social welfare when he’s unable to work but bureaucracy, being a heartless beast, drops him when he’s unable to tick enough boxes to satisfy form-fillers. Befriended by single Mum Katie who’s also being squeezed by the machine, they form an unlikely alliance with Daniel becoming her new best friend, and a part-time grandfather to her children. The innocent arrangement is heart-warmingly tender as they carve out a safe space from external pressure (his DIY skills a fair trade for her cooking); heart-warming until those pressures build and build, and the scales inevitably tip one heart-breaking moment.

I, Daniel Blake is classic Ken Loach; a beautifully crafted story about the every day that speaks to greater human rhythms. Led by two relatively unknown actors, there’s an overwhelming sense that you’re watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary which, in many regards, it is. Their performances are so convincing it is easy to forget their characters are exactly that, and become totally immersed, seduced even, by the lives of these ‘battlers’, the disenfranchised. When Katie breaks down at a food kitchen, and later falls foul of a store detective, the emotional fallout is truly heart-wrenching.

Steeped in old-school socialism (the good kind), Loach pours his heart on to his sleeve as he rallies against the unjust. He doesn’t have to look far for inspiration, his heartland, the British north, has long been a squeezing ground for successive governments whose sense of social justice evaporates just north of London’s ring-road. These are the forgotten people, Brexiters who rallied against the south, and Loach gives a face to their concerns. The tragedy, as Daniel Blake learns first hand, is how little anyone really, honestly, cares. There's a lot to be hateful and angry about, but this is better than that. It’s what gives I, Daniel Blake such resonance. It’s what makes this such a significant film.


Previewed at Verona Theatre, Sydney, on 11 October 2016.

Dave Johns
Hayley Squires
Sharon Percy

Ken Loach

Paul Laverty




100 minutes

November 17, 2016
I, Daniel Blake (2016) on IMDb
Stacks Image 21553
Stacks Image 21556