I, Daniel Blake (2016)

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Lack of Benefits

Director: Ken Loach
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan, Briana Shann

Recovering from a heart attack, widower Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) finds himself unable to return to work, yet not eligible to receive benefits. As he finds it difficult to keep hold of his dignity, he makes friends with single mother Katie (Hayley Squires), who's also being unfairly treated by the bureaucratic staff at the Job Centre.

What Ken Loach has delivered is a powerful indictment of the flawed benefits system, and how it fails those who are in need of it. Loach is clearly passionate about getting across what's wrong with this picture, having sat down with real people who suffered due to this, as the affecting circumstances feel genuine and realistic. One moment set in a food bank is the prime example of all this, as the sacrifice and hunger of Katie comes to a head.

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What the cast bring to the table cannot merely be labelled performances. The level of naturalism and realism lend an authenticity to the film, as though we're witnessing real people suffer as opposed to characters created for the purpose of this film. Dave Johns does a wonderful job as the titular Daniel Blake, delivering humanity as effortlessly as he delivers the hilarity. Hayley Squires is equally impressive, perfectly showcasing how lost and struggling her character is, doing whatever she can for her children, no matter what effect it has on her.

I, Daniel Blake delivers a heartbreaking look at how the benefits system fails those who need it, balanced with the right amount of hilarity and poignancy. This is a picture one won't soon forget.