Guest Review: I, Daniel Blake (2016)

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Directed By: Ken Loach
Written By: Paul Laverty
Cast: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Sharon Percy
Runtime: 1 hr 40 minutes

If film is a mirror on society then the sheer volume of recent movies about the ugliness of the post-GFC world is a reflection of the scale of devastation it has caused. Most are essays in poverty that explore the loss of humanity for ordinary people. The film I, Daniel Blake (2016) is another in this genre. It is an intense portrait of an ordinary man who struggles to retain dignity in an Orwellian world. Far from entertaining, it is gritty, raw, and unrelenting.

Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a rough-speaking but likable 59-year-old tradesman in Newcastle, England. He is recovering from a serious heart attack and lives alone. Unable to work, he does what thousands like him do in such circumstances: he applies for support allowance so he can pay his bills until health returns. What happens next is not the point, rather it is how it happens that will make you cringe. Form-filling becomes an obstacle course for preventing people like Daniel from getting help and the staff who process him absolve themselves of responsibility through constant referral to the “decision-maker” who is never there. Denied support allowance, he must apply for a job-seeker benefit that requires 35 hours a week of documented job hunting. His protestations are officially sanctioned and he loses all support.

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In the midst of his own inhuman treatment by a soul-less bureaucracy Daniel tries to help a single mother with two young children who is also crushed by the system. Katie (Hayley Squires) has moved from a homeless hostel and is living on food handouts because her benefits have been stopped. She finds ‘affordable accommodation’ that Daniel offers to repair and he becomes a father figure. Still unable to buy shoes for her children, Katie finds the kind of work that shocks Daniel but is the last resort for many abandoned by a social welfare system with gaping holes in its safety net. Desperate to help her, Daniel vents his frustration through graffiti on the welfare office wall and briefly becomes an urban hero.

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This is a disturbing film that many audiences will find confronting, particularly those who think they live in a caring society that supports people in need. The pace is slow and the dialogue often terse, but that’s how life is at the bottom. The subdued cinematography and colour palette accentuates the drabness of life for the dispossessed. Perfectly cast, the two main actors fill their roles with an authentic voice for countless ordinary people who fall on hard times. There is no joy in this film and whatever humour you find is there to make the story bearable. But in a world that moves inexorably towards a hard-right social conscience, it is a film that cries out to be seen and heard.

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cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘I, Daniel Blake’? Well, what did you think? 

Trailer Spotlight: British Crime Thriller ‘All Things To All Men’

Wahoo!!! Thanks to my friend Stella over at Byrneholics for the tip. This is THE trailer I’ve been waiting for, even though there’s not a confirmed US release date yet for this movie. Though for my lucky UK friends, this movie opens on April 5.

For those who missed my spotlight post for this crime thriller, I’m super excited for this mostly for the high caliber cast: Rufus Sewell, Gabriel Byrne and Toby Stephens. Oh man, talk about massive eye candy all around, and I haven’t even mentioned the gorgeous London scenery 😉

Now check out the trailer:

I have seen this trailer half a dozen times since this morning, so can’t you tell I’m excited for this? 😀 I love crime dramas and the London setting is especially intriguing for an Anglophile like me.

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Here’s the official synopsis:

When Riley (Stephens), a professional thief, is hired to pull off the ultimate sting, he is unwittingly drawn into a deadly cat and mouse game between maverick police detective Parker (Sewell) and renowned London crime lord Joseph Corso (Byrne). Parker is determined to bring down Corso and do whatever it takes to end his reign, but when the sting backfires and stakes get higher, Riley finds himself at the centre of a battle where the line between the law and crime are blurred beyond recognition.

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Leo Gregory

I really like the look of this, as my friend Stella said to me, it’ll be a testosterone-filled ride… and I’m more than game to tag along. This is George Isaac‘s directorial debut (he produced British dramas Kidulthood and Adulthood) so I don’t really know how well he’ll do behind the camera. But due to the premise and cast, I have high hopes for this.

I’m so thrilled to see Rufus getting top billing here, and nice to see Leo Gregory getting a bigger part in this as well. I’m going to try again via Twitter if I could get an interview with him. Oh btw, the girl in the trailer with no speaking parts is Spanish actress Elsa Pataky (Fast Five), who happens to be Chris Hemsworth’s wife. Boy, looks like she’s surrounded by hunks, on AND off the set, lucky gal!

I hope this film will find a US distributor, even for a limited release. Come on Hollywood, I REALLY want to see this on the big screen!


So what do you think of the trailer folks? Any fan of the cast?

London, here we come! The inevitable Britastic blog series begins today

Photo courtesy of clubquarters.com

Counting down to our London trip in less than two weeks, allow me to be a bit indulgent and in celebratory mood for a bit. From now until our departure Friday, May 7, FlixChatter will feature British-themed posts, whether it’ll be a British movie review or scene spotlight, featured posts on British filmmakers/actors, or whatever UK-related random item that comes to mind.

Hope you can stomach 10 days of all things British, there are so many British actors in Hollywood and tons of iconic scenes are set in the UK, specifically London, so the possibilities are endless.

Just for fun, here’s a scene from The World is Not Enough where the River Thames, as well as other London iconic symbols, are on full display. Surely it’s a preposterous scene, heck the entire Bond flick defies common sense (Denise Richards as a Bond girl? ’nuff said). And why in the world is Pierce Brosnan is adjusting his tie as his watercraft dives under water??! Granted it lacks the whimsy of Moonraker‘s gondola chase in Venice, though both are equally ridiculous, but it’s still pretty fun scene to watch.

I can’t wait to get on a boat tour on the Thames!