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Film / I, Daniel Blake

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"...demand my appeal date before I starve and change the shite music on the phones!"
I, Daniel Blake is a 2016 British Drama film directed by Ken Loach. It won the Palme d'Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the Prix du public at the Locarno International Film Festival and Most Popular International Feature at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
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After suffering a major heart attack, former carpenter Daniel Blake seeks Employment and Support Allowance. However, while his doctors tell him that he must not return to work, the government's less accurate test states that he is fit for work and his only choice for benefits is Job Seekers Allowance, a benefit that requires he proves he's been looking for work. At the job center he meets Katie, a young woman with two children (Daisy and Dylan) facing a similar issue, and the two try to cut through the red tape.


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The film contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Dan's neighbour China is rarely seen without another quieter guy in his house and they seem to be rather touchy-feely.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Dan starts off bald but steadily grows whiskers as his living situation declines.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: Ann, the only bureaucrat in the movie who actually cares about the people she's trying to help, is rendered ineffectual by inane rules that confound even her.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Daniel's heart condition eventually gives him a fatal heart attack.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dan has a dry, caustic wit which he uses to cope with a harsh, uncaring world.
  • The Determinator: Dan compares himself to a dog with a bone. No matter how many roadblocks, setbacks and heartbreaks he faces, he never gives up. His sheer stubbornness proves to be both an asset and a hindrance at different points.
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  • Disappeared Dad: Daisy and Dylan have separate fathers, both of whom ran out on them.
  • Downer Ending: The film ends with Daniel suffering a fatal heart attack moments before he can finally get his benefits sorted, Katie remaining a prostitute, her children losing the closest they ever had to a father figure and the system that was at least partially responsible for his death is no way held to account.
    • Arguably counts as a Bittersweet Ending as the sheer bleakness of the film's depiction of the welfare state actually caused many real political figures to take notice and implement reforms. On an in-universe level, there's a firm implication that the appeal was never going to work, meaning that Dan at the very least died at his most happy and hopeful rather than living to hit yet another wall and dying alone and starving in his flat.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Nobody is perfect and nobody is horrible either, even the obstructive bureaucrats.
  • Hopeless with Tech: Daniel has never used a computer before, and a librarian has to explain to him how the mouse works. This is quickly Played for Drama once he's told that he has to apply online, making his application even more difficult.
  • I, Noun: The title, I, Daniel Blake, referring to the protagonist.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Downplayed. Katie and Daniel are not really jerks but they can be triggered and have caused a scene throughout several points of the film. They otherwise are still normal, good people.
  • New Media Are Evil: Averted, Daniel's main frustrations with modern technology stem from a simple lack of understanding, though he takes pride in being an old-fashioned pencil-and-paper person with common sense. However, the Jobcentre and associated parties' "all-digital" slogans only serve to alienate Dan further, best demonstrated by an unhelpful call handler insisting that he can only find a phone number for a dyslexic line on the internet even after being told that Dan has no access to the internet due to being dyslexic.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Katie asks for sanitary towels in the food bank and resorts to stealing them as they don't have any. Unfortunately, this is Truth in Television for many women who depend on food bank donations.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: No one who Daniel talks to is actually able help him in any real way, and that's if they care about his situation in the first place.
  • Oop North: Set and filmed in Newcastle in the North-East of England.
  • Serious Business: Both Daniel and the people working at the Jobcentre have different ideas about how serious aspects of the application are. The majority of the workers don't treat Daniel's heart condition with any seriousness, while Daniel looks like he's not taking the job search seriously when he hands in a handwritten CV. The only worker who does try to show compassion is reprimanded by her boss for doing so.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Daniel dies moments before he can finally sort out his benefits issue.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Katie eventually becomes one out of desperation, and still is as of the film's ending.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: Katie, Daniel, and most people in this movie are normal, everyday good people. Everyone is at least a little sympathetic and understandable.
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