I, Daniel Blake : A Film Review


Director, Ken Loach, Screenplay, Paul Laverty.  Cast. Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan, Briana Shann, Kate Rutter, Sharon Percy, Kema Sikazwe. (English dialogue) Duration. 1hr 40mins. Camera (color), Robbie Ryan; editor, Jonathan Morris; music, George Fenton; production designers, Fergus Clegg, Linda Wilson; costume designer, Joanne Slater; sound (Dolby Digital), Ray Beckett; sound editor, Kevin Brazier; line producer, Eimhear McMahon; casting, Kahleen Crawford. Production. U.K.- (France-Belgium) A Le Pacte (in France) release of a Sixteen Films, Why Not Prods., Wild Bunch (Rebecca O’Brien), BFI, BBC Films, Les Films du Fleuve, France 2 Cinéma, Canal Plus, France Télévisions, Le Pacte, Cinéart, Ciné Plus, VOO and Be tv production. 

  #WeAreAllDanielBlake

Side by side not taking sides

If you want to avoid a politcally charged piece based around the outrages perpetuated our name in Great Britain and Northern Ireand, on which this film has attempted in its narrow focus to show then I suggest you go to the bottom of the review and the conclusion instead of wading through the politics.  I find people’s perceptions of the politics intruiging and repulsive from the so-called support mechanism of handouts on legal advice and support through the class orientated Legal system – access to justice and the like pure fantasy and peripheral – other ‘agencies’ – charity wars where they are in High Streets ‘chugging’ being unpleasant in a face frame as you pass, to handing out supermarket disposals at food banks then you can get a bit distraught and ashamed.  So move on.

Moving on the story

This journey is a script opening eyes to actors then audiences.  Research needs dictate the timeline for this compressed schedules so the assembled team can come together very quickly, in three months after the get go, finances in place – France is the main arena to show it.  It opens in about 600 screens in France and about 100 in GB/NI.  This story is discovered in so many places it shocks producer Rebecca O’Brien and the outlet, outcome will come touch so many who no the story at some level. Loaches way of working is to shoot in sequence then give script pages say a few days in advance if some scenes need ‘discovery’ let down gently so the performance evolves more naturally.  So actors have the most explained scripted but are taken on a journey also.


Foreign fields in our country

In the early summer at the end of May the European Cinema community meeting once again in Cannes expressed their acclaim of this Ken Loach film.  It should be mentioned the screenplay delivered by Paul Laverty is exceptional and their combined skills, talent have created a very clear depiction of the atrocious Department for Work and Pensionsxorganised abuse of human rights and morality.  Here is a report in May announcing the Ken Loach acclaim action in Cannes.

Last week there was an article in The Guardian about how Labour candidates in the last elections were like “middle class Ryanair passengers,” trying to suppress their metropolitan squeamishness while canvassing in traditional Labour areas.

The voters on the doorsteps said of the politicians: “You’re all the same” – by which they meant: “You’re nothing like me”. 

On the same day, it was reported that Ken Loach, nearing his 80th birthday, had just won prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes for I, Daniel Blake, a film about life on benefits.

This is great news for the makers of this thoroughly decent but very straightforward portrait of the film maker, which looks back over his career, while showing him making that very film. 

Proper Society demands

I am finding this film very hard to review as having now seen it twice can attest to its fiercely upsetting and concerning depiction of Britain – the United Kingdom – that is shown to have a rejection by proxy of large sections of vulnerable and virtually starving people trammeled by Government punitive Social Security actions.  Based on the Public Health. act they distort and reject basic human right principles of social provision for those in need of welfare assistance and breach the rights to privacy as attested by the system shown for all its harmful effect in this film.  Seeing it twice produced the view – seeing it twice assured me it was in fact a work of fiction though it may well have been a documentary of validity and authenticity given its flawless careful handling of a large societal picture which is treated like a soiled limited section of the support system people believe – wrongly – is a safety net.  


The depraved reformers

A local spokesperson for these Social Security ‘Welfare Reforms’ Dr Eileen Evason, who has been an advisor over many years to the Social Services Committee, adding insult to injury over the period appeasing and making noises on/off about possibly unworkability, while failing to solve the problems put up by the Social Security Committee, grandly attests that ‘she’ has advised the First Minister and Deputy First Minister ‘she’ has copper fastened the bottom of the safety net in the latest measures of ‘Welfare Reform’ – which are a removal of further support and diminution of Social Security – in every sense of the word and are as much an insidious harmful assault on people disadvantaged in numerous ways accessing Welfare.  

Reforms are the further rejection of people’s rights and betrayal of the Welfare Society on which our whole ‘sovereign’ entitlement has affirmed through the Public Health Act. It is how our civility has been established.  I could cite several Laws which are breached, among them the provision of emergency and hardship funds which are ‘means tested’ in becoming a claimant.  Worse still is the treatment of Asylum seekers, Refugees and some Immigrants and their diminished rights of access to shelter and the means financially to live in a dignified and civilised way which basically all consider alienating and intensly degradng on purpose by design by the Home Office.  They maintain their dignity as a measure of contrast to those who subjugate them, the depraved reformers. The Attorney General fails to find fault here while he contests the liberty of cakes and rights for access to criminal files by victims and has expressed his views on gay marriage, abortion and sexual prostitution practices.  Human trafficking and Healthcare deficiencies along with long term mental health problems cramming prisons with TV licence evaders, avoiding the rackettering going in also in drugs, property scams and theft from trammeled owners is left to one side when it comes to enforcement of legalities.

Subjugation 

The powerful in all generations beat down the populous in order to create a means to accumulate and amass, grow their fortunes.  Corporations now unleash the threat of ( now mostly seen off) suing Nations who transgress their Commercial practices by regulation – in contrast to other locations – as a means of finding lowest common denominator compliant States to carry out manufacturer and trade.  This is very much a part of the Political embrace, or the Corporations wrestling Governments into surrender by the throats into submission to their plans of work practices.  You may have noticed the floodgates having opened once Thathcher destroyed Manufacturing industries as the tooth nail and claws of overseas economic conditions took a nosedive and resurrected on a Conservative compliant employers agenda.  Followed by the breakneck catastrophic avoidance of needed market reforms when New Labour arose Phoenix like and adopted Neo-liberal economics which achieved what? Fairly evident. The Conservative backlash to the attempt at restructuring tax credits dealt with by the stop gap DWP minister Stephen Crabbe said there were to be no further cuts to Welfare.  What remains however are economic measures creating hardship not alleviating it as is the Conservativve way.  There remains no link to prices in terms of Benefits so any inflation will diminish their value.  The zero inflation likewise meant the adjustments needed were never going to reduce the vulnerability of very low ‘incomes’ never realistically matching survival needs as is clear from social deprivations the length and breadth of the islands.


Both Governments actually banned Ken Loach films which now find themselves on the right side of history.  Some elements (Wind that Shakes the Barley excluded as it was so naive in my view) relate to policies implemented in Northern Ireland which were volatile exposures of criminality of criminal proportions.  In NI film is pronounced ‘filim’ which also connects to the spooks Le Carre points to as finding legitimacy when the ‘sovereign cause’ was imperilled in the Northern Ireland troubles.  We have an o added to NI giving us the Northern Ireland Office and the begetters of many a violent consequence.  Ministers in Government/Assembly rather like the idea the truth is left concealed as to the real savage brutality of regimes acting out their power lust here. It suits their criminal acts and duplicity/double agent positions and hides their joint enterprise efforts of concealment.  The Blair contention he was responsible for healing the process is another myth.  George Mitchell if anyone, alongside wise counsel from Mary Robinson and others not up to their necks in corrupt dealings, stroke parties are the real authors along with the law abiding populous in creating peace.


Katie and Dan, Daisy and Dylan.
Mercy doesn’t come into it.  This film is harrowing and the awareness of both Ken Loach, in putting this account of a shifting period in our history, when the further effects of the 99% globally daily inflict greater influence and harm in the shaping of our society is coruscating and baleful.  It is like watching cities, generations, turned into enumerated sub-Orwellian dehumanised robots functioning to extract as much value from commodities goods and services as is mechanistic ally possible.  The machine age where those owning the power of process from land to building to healthcare extract more than they contribute along an economic symmetry, uniformity which is destroying the planet and its inhabitants.  More and more obvious by the passing years.

Katie, Dan, Dylan and Daisy come to the crest of a hill in a wide street shot, with Dylan acting up and playing on the relatively quiet suburban road.  I saw this as a pivotal point and it’s not a spoiler to be discussing it.  In ‘films’ about the making of this movie I have seen the set up being discussed as Loach and others converge to discuss and KL inevitably calls the shots!  This is where things look to be on the improve.  As you will have likely read the coming together of these people is through their treatment at the hands of the state.  ‘JobCentrePlus’ Newcastle.  After two years in a hostel in London after having lost a rented private flat (note here KL chooses the scenario to point up the lack of council, local authority built homes) through a minor complaint, they are doing separate things in the Job Centre and after another knock back Dan and most in the centre hear raised voices as a stressed Katie faces a knock back which will see her with no money for food or electricity.  Despite the condition, which has Daniel there in the first place, Dan intervenes ad sticks up for her in a scene which is being controlled by unreasonable overstretched staff.  They cannot be seen in their ‘role play’ to move one inch from the rules and agenda.  They are complicit and compliant nevertheless.  It does nothing to resolve the situation as the staff always control the situation by assertion.  By the passive aggressive violence of their inhuman interaction. Ca particularly abhorrent version of which is displayed your a thirty something floor manager whose bulk and belligerence is like a blank wall purposely.  In local offices it is just the same with blank walls and uniforms, badged floor staff acting like prison guards and traffic police.  Entirely designed as intimidatory and just as Latie and Dan find.  The children have to witness this humiliation also. Being so young they will have in futurectimesxstrong memories of this imprint of society they were brought up in.  

Dan cannot separate himself from this encounter given he is like them in the same sinking stinking boat.  Refugees in their own country.  Like anyone of any worth he helps and so Katie is given some hope and he sets about turning around the house she has been given.  It is barely habitable and lacks most things.  Beds, table and chairs excepted. The London policy of shifting out trouble families, single parents in their estimation a problem, all three have to detach themselves from their roots and go to Geordie land where they have no connections.  It is a form of cultural amputation loosing friends and family and all support. It might be regarded as like students, new job prospects – you move to a good job with arrangements for xyz prepared but here it is a complete nightmare and extremely low levels of support and even means to live and with few ‘possessions’ in tow or even storage.  It’s what middle class England voted/votes for and every aspect has implications undreamt of or excluded from the mind by the latest offer of the Sunday roast lunch at the supermarket.  Delivery can be arranged.  The carefully managed tiers of commercial life teased out into jumbo size excuses for lifestyle choices seen and tantalisingly mirrored back at expectations by the political manipulators governing.

  A town anywhere

The Foodbank

A minister recently reflected on Coffee shops – his observation continues into other places restaurants, shops, bars – that they install pews from disused and happy flappy churches who think nothing of ripping out the seats and bare bulbs, rusting grid lamp covers, galvanised mini buckets, boards as platters evoking a back to basics – unafraid of the distressed plate the sirloin steak sits on along both the rustic chips.  When Katie, Dan, Daisy and Dylan are at the crest f that hill they are heading to that phenonomen – the ‘Church’ led charity group – government authenticated – Foodbank.  There are a startling number in most major towns. Our four come to the ‘Church’ Foodbank and are greeted by an enormous queue of everyday folk standing chatting in orderly fashion. The experience inside is something which cuts to your core for many conflicting reasons.  Everyone is doing their best to alleviate the need for people to collect food to survive on top of their ‘income support’ IS ‘wages’ Workers support ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance’ JSA ‘Employment and support Allownce’ ESA and some on ‘Personal Independant Support Allowance’ PIPS. and each person has a Doctors, MPs, Social Security, Police, referral form stipulating they are likely to benefit from Food Aid.  Here in Belfast there is a Foodbank reached by four flights of stairs down a ammonia smelling lane way and with a lift (out of order?).  It is somewhere only the relatively fit and able can access , elderly and those unable to travel back and forth arriving what they get over long distances cannot avail of the meagre provisions.  There are very limited alternatives and despite this numerous deaths on the streets have occurred some not fifty yards away and destitution is hidden under trees and back lanes with an overhanging doorway or at the bac of arestiarant where the hot air comes through the vents.  In daytime in winter I have seen destitute backed up to a dry cleaners hot air discharge vent which is virtually as steam vent.  KL and PL could have continued to make numerous films on destitution and involving those of no status whatsoever who find themselves here but this should incinerate the lies of Poiticians on the relative wealth of this state’ should silence the complicit entrenched waged apologists – for creating a narrative – for having to enforce it – The Law Centre Northern Ireland is also in this category having played host to the doctrine and ignored all legal contexts of Human Rights in so doing.

Poverty of spirit

Acceptance of poverty is bound with having made sacrifice, poverty is nothing without some form of deprivation.  Imposed by others or oneself.  It is not a Christian renunciation – felt by some to to obtain an anti-worldly attitude – and it does not lead to the removal of social malaise but the opposite.  It is a pharisaical damaging concept for oneself.  It is especially clear in some religions as a belief in, confimation of the excecution of Gods will.  In addition to this how many could you name who hold this humility while themselves safe in the knowledge they shall not be impoverished.  The Church fulfills its aims while controlling the minds of the supplicants entreated in their role play.  Having wealth and holding it is primarily a function adopted in religions, nations and societies.  The use of wealth was intended in Gods world to create social fulfilment.  Be it the production of food, transport, education or health and caring it serves no purpose other than to create social purpose.  Manifestly detached from this is the vast accumulation of wealth which has neither function or form.  It is seen as a barrier against misfortune.  Calamity comes in many forms and natural disasters are common and reactions of an earth balancing its elemental fixed laws and structures disrupt many notions.  It has a randomness with which we consider the consequence of – act.

Humans relate to laws and instilled societal forms set in a familial almost fixed set of behaviour relying almost everyone ill defined and not of any real note or consequence.  It foresees a pattern and bonds.  In every moment expanding this is seen as obligatory.  Not so God will.  Telling the rich man if he wished to be perfect he should give to the poor is all that God willed.  So what might that  were made in the time of Constintine between the ruling establishment and the will of God – Christian values.  The progression though led to the diminution of those values and the application – routed in assumed power – hoarding and stifling distribution not based on supplying people’s legitimate means.  Social obligation is the key. Those keys are established through Marxism through Tolstoy, through continental mineral exploitation to create social and human fulfilment.  Where are we headed?


Conclusion #####5

We are thankful (once again) Paul Laverty for bringing forward a societal ill composed of State bureaucracy the malaise that is the UK Welfare system to a wide audience.  It opens on 21 October 2016 in 100 cinemas in The UK and 600 in France showing the depth of awareness films can have on societal issues. This is a compelling story of a man driven to the edge of his existence by bureaucracy and his life is shown with compassion and understanding by the filmmakers. He (Daniel) is joined in the aim to seek benefits by a young single parent, whose plight he finds when visiting the JobCentrePlus almost a confirmation of a conspiratorial system leaving people at the edge of their dignity and strength seeking the means to live a simple life and deal with their specific circumstances. Daniel is a figure summarising the breadth of the diminishing values and morality shrinking daily. With a condition denying him the health to work he is as a 59 year old required to apply for Benefits to sustain himself. He is advised by his GP and Consultant that he is unfit for work and applies for Employment and Support Allowance. Withstanding his Medical condition, confirmed by his physicians, he is compelled against his legal entitlement, to disclosing to a third party his health condition by statements in a q and a with a ‘Healthcare Professional’ (someone who has no responsibility for well being whatsoever and untrained in any medical analysis or part of any treatment plan) on the phone in a black void at the very beginning of the film.  It is a complete invasion of privacy by a third party and is itself a breach of Article 8 of The Human Rights Act,regarding privacy, going unrecognised by such as DWP, DSDNI, ATTORNEY GENERAL, DFC, LAW CENTRE NI, CAB, PATIENT AND CLIENT COUNCIL and the legislators in Parliament and an a priori defence for everyone in terms of its provision. 

It also is a breach of Client/Patient confidentiality as expressed in the General Medical Councils own codes (Hippocratic Oath) for confidentiality which the State by design subvert and disregard along with the apologists in a train behind them, the Citizens Advice Bureau, The Law Centre, the Social Affairs Committee, the Government Legal Services Department and The Attorney General for Northern Ireland who all refuse to acknowledge the a priori existence of these rights. So Daniel Blake represents the – again explained succinctly, more than my detailed account, – the sisyphean struggle – the task is endless and one of monumental endurance – eloquently described by Variety reviewer, OWEN GLEIBERMAN, on seeing it when it won the Palme d’Or. Wrote the following very insightful words in response – among others equally attesting the strength of the film – ” …it’s about something so much larger than bureaucratic cruelty (although it is very much about that). It captures a world — our world — in which the opportunity to thrive, or even just survive, is shrinking by the minute. With the right handling, the movie has a chance to connect with audiences as few Loach films ever have. It’s a work of scalding and moving relevance.”

When an outsider can see so clearly the desperation and degradation society is perpetuating it is a very clear warning.

Such is the picture of what plainly is a mirror of our divided, fractured, malfunctioning Government and Governance the case for a moral and just society is made all the more relevant and important by this films approach which is a dignified response to the perpetrators of the atrocious conditions they consider lawful and fair.  It is ruinous.
  
John Graham

20 October 2016

Belfast
On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 21 October until 3 November 2016 and at selected Cinemas up to 100 screens in the UK will be showing it while it starts on 600 screens in France who provided considerable backing.

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