I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016): UK

Reviewed by Thomas Luke Madenwald at AFI Film Festival Los Angeles, California.


I, Daniel Blake tells the powerful story of a middle-aged carpenter who has suffered from a heart attack and is trying to get work and apply for medical care from the government. During his struggle, he befriends a single mother, Katie,  who is going through her own hard times trying to raise two children. Daniel Blake begins to help them and care for them even though he is running out of time and all the odds seem against him. This beautiful but yet sad story shows how important it is to help others and stand up against a pointless system.

The first thing I noticed about this film was its lack of music. There was almost no musical sound at all through the entire film. This gave the film a sense of realism and made the emotionally tense scenes even more powerful because we were able to hear everything and not have it covered up by music. As the audience member, you were so easily enthralled in the open breathing scenes that they felt truly alive.

Using a simplistic  and efficient cinematography style plus the lack of music gave each shot the feeling that you could breathe and you were ok sitting there watching the scenes unfold. But what I found is that I wanted to run up and hug all the characters and be there for them. The cinematographer did a fantastic job letting the audience begin to love and feel for the story and characters, rather than force it on them.

The grey earthy tones and colors of the film also gave it a melancholy realism that had me eating it up the whole time. Each frame seemed like a dull grimy candy that still looked so good I had to eat it and it made me believe the story. You wont find any “Hollywood” flashy trickery in this film. It wont trick you into loving and caring for it. You want to love and care for it because this film, like many other great films of our time, has heart and truth. If you had to make me pick two words to describ this film I would say: Heart and Truth.

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