I, Daniel Blake. 2016. Great Britain. Directed by Ken Loach. 100 min.
Ken Loach’s Palme D’Or winner follows a widowed carpenter’s Kafkaesque journey through the benefits system following a heart attack that has left him unable to work. Based on extensive research conducted by screenwriter and Loach collaborator Paul Laverty, the film captures protagonist Daniel Blake’s anger and bemusement at finding his disability application denied. Over subsequent visits to the local Newcastle Job Centre, Blake’s attempts to follow the byzantine rules only lead to humiliation and gradual devastation. He forms a friendship with a single mother, Katie, and her two children, who also struggle to get by. Loach captures startling moments of desperation and compassion within the unlikely family unit, with the immediacy and warmth of modern-day neorealism. While aptly topical in the year of Brexit—Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbin reportedly called for incoming Prime Minister Theresa May to watch the film—*I, Daniel Blake*’s exceptional message is a beleaguered person’s plea for dignity is not at the expense of his neighbor. We would do well to bring some of that sentiment into 2017. Courtesy of IFC Films.