I, Daniel Blake

Director Ken Loach has done it again: He has brought to the screen a slice of life that those who live in comfort never see—but must see if they want to understand how the underclass nowadays tries to survive. The film is about a certain Daniel Blake (played by Dave Johns), who is out of work in Newcastle due to a heart attack. He would like to return to work, and he volunteers at one point as a handyman for a single mother, Katie (Hayley Squires), with two children, who equally seeks a legitimate job. A medical assistant tells Blake hat he cannot work until his heart condition improves. Accordingly, he needs something to live on and tries to apply for public support, only to find the contradictions of the welfare bureaucracy—that he cannot get support unless he applies for work, which he cannot, while denial of benefits means that he must appeal his case to survive. To navigate the system, he is directed to a useless employment seminar and required to file online, but he is not computer literate. At one point, he sells all his possessions for cash to continue living in his now-barren flat. Meanwhile, his friend Katie has similar problems with the bureaucracy, is falsely accused of shoplifting and later is recruited as a prostitute. The humiliations, in short, are many, though the British are exemplarily polite throughout. Bureaucrats who specialize in one phase of welfare just do not know (or in some cases care) what other phases are doing to make the navigation as difficult as possible. At one point, Blake gets a marking pen and writes his name on the wall of the welfare office, stating that he is awaiting an appeal on his case, to the applause of passersby before being escorted and released from the police station. The climax of the film should perhaps be expected but is certainly not desired by filmviewers. The Political Film Society has nominated I, Daniel Blake as best film exposé of 2016.  MH