I, Daniel Blake review – A poetic cry for help

A timely, powerful and urgent look at the harsh realities of modern Britain

I, Daniel Blake


I, Daniel Blake is a poetic cry for help that everyone must see. It’s a passionately made film by Ken Loach, one of our greatest political directors, who continues his longterm collaboration with the brilliant naturalistic screenplay writer Paul Laverty.

Loach’s choice to cast stand up comedian Dave Johns as titular character Daniel Blake did not at first convince me. I found his delivery slightly awkward, but as the character and story developed, I became captivated by his performance, finally being completely won over by him.

Hayley Squires as single mother of two Katie, gives a sharp and beautiful performance. The now infamous and heartbreaking food bank scene is made the more powerful by her subtle and unfussy performance. Robbie Ryan’s back seat approach to the camera work in this sequence also adds to its overall impact. I challenge anyone to experience this moment and not be profoundly moved and angered by it.

Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) stands defiant
Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) stands defiant

I do have some reservations though.

I am completely behind the film’s sentiments and it is clear that there needs to be much more honesty in showing the world the harsh realities that too many people are suffering from in this modern world. However, I do wish that there was more light and shade in the structure of the piece.

A large percentage of the scenes have a clear and sometimes too heavy handed purpose in reaffirming the film’s political message, which at times can be quite wearing. It would have had a greater dramatic impact on me if there had been more exploration of the characters outside of the films core political purpose.

Having said that, I repeat my opening gambit that everyone must see this film. We need to be aware, we need to be moved and we must take action.

  • Directed by Ken Loach.
  • Written by Paul Laverty.
  • Featuring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Sharon PercyBriana Shann and Dylan McKiernan.

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