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With I, Daniel Blake on commercial release in the UK from today (October 21), here’s the first of two articles Vox Political is reblogging to celebrate.

Here’s a review, published by academic website The Conversation:

I, Daniel Blake cements Loach’s continued importance not only as a film director but also as a shrewd social commentator and committed political activist.

It is a film that is both gripping and perfectly politically timed, telling as it does the story of a man who through no fault of his own finds himself caught in a harsh world of uncaring bureaucrats, food banks and benefits cuts.

With I, Daniel Blake, he ho[m]es in on the people behind changes to the benefits system , which have seen those, such as disabled people and young families, least able to help themselves in the cross hairs as easy targets for cuts.He also takes a well-aimed swipe at those heartless individuals working within the system who simply “carry out orders”. There is a memorable scene in the film where a benefits office worker is scolded by her superior merely for taking the time to try and help the slightly bemused Daniel. The implication is that such thoughtful assistance will not deliver the right productivity results and therefore must be eliminated.

Typical of Loach, I, Daniel Blake is a film that engages with the harsh social conditions within many parts of the UK in the second decade of the 21st century. Loach and his producer Rebecca O’Brien, alongside another long time collaborator, writer Paul Laverty, have forged a work that is driven by anger and dismay at the fact that such a state of affairs exists in a wealthy country like the UK.

The film focuses on Daniel Blake, played by comedian Dave Johns, a man who has worked hard all his life but finds himself on the wrong side of benefits cuts following a heart attack. As he tries to work his way through the labyrinth of the unfamiliar welfare system, he befriends Katie (Hayley Squires) a young mother forced to uproot her young family from London due to a lack of affordable council housing.

The choice of a heart attack as the reason for Daniel being unable to work is a crucial one, emphasising as it does his “every person” status. Such a condition is all too common in today’s society and something most people can easily relate to. Here Loach and his collaborators make Daniel stand for many of us – one small medical emergency away from the breadline. The logic is, if we could all be Daniel Blake then we should all be angry at the system that, as represented on screen, lets him down.

Source: I, Daniel Blake: Ken Loach tells Britain it’s time to kick the political door in

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