Kamloops Film Festival in review: I, Daniel Blake

Each year, The Omega reviews the films presented at the Kamloops Film Festival. The festival runs through March 11.

I, Daniel Blake is a film about vulnerability, self-respect, and what it means to need help and give it.

The film introduces us to Daniel, a middle aged carpenter who has recently suffered a heart attack. His doctor says he’s not yet fit for work, but the state says he’s not eligible to receive the support he needs in the interim, and then says he’s got to look for work if he wants any sort of income assistance.

Dan is up against a world he no longer fits in comfortably. He’s been a carpenter all his life, so when he finds himself in front of a computer he’s forced to use, he finds himself in front of a mountain to climb. The frustration is palpable during scenes that show the distance between the old ways and the new.

Soon, Dan finds a kind of vulnerable kinship with single mother Katie in the unemployment office, where many of the film’s scenes take place.

The film’s performances are as strong and real as the characters. Dave Johns gives us a stellar performance as Daniel, a very believable everyman. Alongside is Hayley Squires as Katie, a struggling single mother trying to look out for her kids.

The film works as somewhat of a character study as we follow Daniel through his life in this time of transition. Out of work and recovering, we watch Daniel interact with his neighbours, lend his kindness to Katie and grow more indignant with a system he’s forced to deal with.

I, Daniel Blake explores a character that no longer fits in the modern world, but nonetheless has so much to offer to it.

The film is directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty – a duo that has worked together a number of times over 20 years and produced titles such as The Wind that Shakes the Barley and The Angels’ Share.