Daniel Blake, a 59-year-old joiner from Newcastle, has been forced to wrestle with the unsympathetic DWP (Department for Work and Pensions), over his ESA (Employment Support Allowance). He has a heart condition, which prevents him from working.
Private health contractors deemed Blake fit for work. This means he now faces the possibility of having his welfare benefits cut unless he looks for a job.
As his world begins falling down around him, he notices others are going through the same difficulties, and having their benefits cut unfairly.
Despite living on the edge of his means himself, he helps a struggling family experiencing similar troubles, when he is going for a reassessment of his claim. Mother of two Katie Morgan, takes desperate measures to help her two children, including shoplifting and prostitution.
I, Daniel Blake, reveals some of the flaws of the DWP and how it operates. As well as the government’s attitude towards disability and the elderly. They disregard Blake’s heart condition and declare him fit for work, cutting off his ESA.
The central character, Blake, is computer illiterate. Many over 60’s in Britain are in the same boat. This makes it extremely difficult for them to contend with the DWP’s set up, which is entirely digital.
Dave Johns who plays Daniel Blake, performs the character as someone who is both altruistic and rebellious. While Stephen Clegg who plays the Job Centre floor manager, effectively portrays a stuffy, unethical bureaucrat, who does everything by the book.
One of the best performances comes from Hayley Squires. She accurately depicts Morgan as someone who is fighting to provide for her loved ones, and suffering mentally as a result.
The cinematography in the film is gritty and cold. The rough, run down setting of a council estate added to the bleak atmosphere. The weather and aesthetic of the picture, reflects the not so cosy life of a benefit claimant.
Compared to other films, the soundtrack is sparse. What little music there is, is evocative and seems to encapsulate the tragedy of the story.
The harsh reality of the movie makes the audience sympathise with its characters’ plight. It’s a real emotional drama. Blake’s journey takes him through hell and back for the sake of a basic quality of life and financial security.
It’s called I, Daniel Blake but in truth there are hundreds of thousands of ‘Daniel Blakes’ out there, caught up in a radically unfair system, which prioritise cutting costs over basic human decency.
To find out more about this benefit issue read: The Great ‘Fit To Work’ Scandal.