Wednesday, 2 November 2016

REVIEW - I, DANIEL BLAKE (KEN LOACH)


Ken Loach battles on with yet another film that might just have been that bit more persuasive, and less expensive, as a simple screed or local political campaign. Alas, he's tried that, and anyway, I, Daniel Blake is neither of those, at least not technically. It's a film, and in many ways it is a very fine one - ways principally due to its political persuasiveness. Corners cut and shortcuts taken in the name of dramatic licence accepted, the heart of this film - and it is a burgeoning, brimful, heavy heart - bears an important message, existing only to be communicated with all the clarity and sympathy of which Loach and Paul Laverty are capable. It's an angry, accusatory work, beneath and beyond the generous humour, typically unafraid to point fingers and place blame. Neither director nor screenwriter are interested any longer in humanizing their targets, unambiguously railing against the exploitation and desecration of public services established to maintain some modicum of compassion in the state system. If I, Daniel Blake is a film destined to enrage or annoy conservatives, that's entirely and appropriately intentional, since Laverty has here drawn a line through the right-wing elitist spin, directly connecting cause and consequence. The final feeling with which one is left upon watching I, Daniel Blake is despair, though perhaps a small part of that is down to the horrible big missteps taken en route to eliciting it. The grip on pacing and continuity is slack at best, the artistic design is utterly average (has Robbie Ryan ever crafted such dull images?) and there's a crass, sex-phobic plot turn in the third act. All unnecessary errors that, indeed, might have been avoided had I, Daniel Blake been left to the realm of political activism alone. But as politically activist cinema goes, it's a powerful, worthy work all the same.