I, Daniel Blake

Jun 10, 2017

High-class movie about the Brit lower class. One of the best films of the year and winner of Cannes Palm d'Or.

I, Daniel Blake

Grade: A

Director: Ken Loach (Jimmy’s Hall)

Screenplay: Paul Laverty (The Wind that Shakes the Barley)

Cast: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires

Rating: R

Runtime: 100 min

by John DeSando

“It's a monumental farce, isn't it? You sitting there with your friendly name tag on your chest, Ann, opposite a sick man looking for nonexistent jobs that I can't take anyway. Wasting my time, employers' time, your time. And all it does is humiliate me, grind me down.”  Daniel (Dave Johns)

And so it goes for the Brit working class without work, an ailing worker, Daniel, who can’t get unemployment aid because his doctor says he’s not healthy enough to work but the non-medical bureaucrats say he needs to look for work to qualify for subsidy. And the jobs are not there anyway.

Director Ken Loach, a veteran of social realism akin to the films of the marvelous Mike Leigh, has crafted a Cannes Palm d’Or winning masterpiece called I, Daniel,  depicting a good man at the end of his rope, Daniel, and his young friend, Katie with two kids wanting to be productive members of the working class but beaten back by a system and economy that fights them every moment of the day.

This is a brilliant small film, with acting far and beyond good, and moments of struggle more poignant than any in the biggest blockbuster this summer. As Daniel fights the system for his right to a subsistence allocation and Katie is forced to become a prostitute, Loach makes a strong and clear statement about the social rules that favor the favored and grind down the unfortunate.

Johns is profoundly convincing as a decent blue-collar Brit with much still left to give but caught in the vise of his ailment and the demands of a state not prepared to deal with the ironies of daily living for the unfortunate. Johns underplays as does Katie, whose strong but vulnerable demeanor reminds me of a young Deborah Winger.

Vittorio De Sica understood the working class struggle; Ken Loach does, too.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at