Those familiar to JSUK News will know that I have posted DWP news for the last four years, seeing the erosion of the welfare state in the U.K in realtime while sharing on a daily basis. So, natrually when I, Daniel Blake came along I was skeptical about a movie based around the bad aspects of welfare reform. The BBC Films logo proudly starts off proceedings against Daniel being asked medical questions for an ESA assesment, which ultimately finds him fit for work.
The BBC, (along with other propaganda meida outlets,) have covered up many harrowing tales of the Welfare Reform Act, allowing politicians and M.Ps to lie, manipulate and distort truth to hide the true horrors of the welfare cuts. Thankfully none of that is to be found within this film. Instead, what we get is a true to life account of the complexities of the Welfare system, the shambles it is and how it affects good people. Interestingly, the Job Centre staff are also seen to be intimidated by managers for helping people, which as we know happens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9pye-3Pu5Y&t=4s .
That is just one example of how goodly researched I, Daniel Blake is. Every point in the film can be linked back to a real life event reported in the news, most of which I have reposted to JSUK News. Even the fact about job vacencies being massively outnumbered by jobseekers at Costa Coffee, which hit the news in 2013 is included.
Daniel is seen to be caught between a rock and hardplace, where he is appealing for ESA but has to hand out pointless CVs in order to claim Jobseekers Allowance until he hears back from his appeal. Daniels narrative will ring true for any older person who has been forced to claim Universal Credit, ‘Digitial by default’ and the complexities it poses to people like Daniel is beautifuly portrayed, through light humour and darker moments.
Then there is the similar narrative of single Mum Katie, who herself faces a sanction by the jobcentre and is forced into prostitution to provide for her children. She moved to Newcastle from London, like many people who have been relocated from the area. As the couple meet, the simularities in how the system treats all people show. They both get threats of sanctions and both ultimately end up at the Foodbank.
Daniel and Katie’s situations continue to get worse and one scene in the Foodbank stands out, again based on real events. Everything in this film is true to life, researched and put together brilliantly. Nothing is preached until the closing dialouge and the acting between the two main characters is brilliant.
I won’t spoil the ending, but that is also based on a real event. If you have ever been through a WCA or the 2012 onwards benefits system in general, you owe it to yourself to se this film. For no other reason than to know that other people know what we know and were bothered to make a film about it.
It’s a slow, easy going film. No soundtrack and a nitty gritty feel really compliment it. You will find yourself going from point to point but in a softly touchy way. There are no graphic scenes, but ones that ultimately remind us of the last four years of welfare reforms through the eyes of real experiences. That’s not to say the film isn’t upsetting, of course these issues are.
Some lines towards the end of the film do let it down slightly, such as a character yelling about the Tory Government. Part of me just wishes he would have said ‘ The Government’, as this could have alienated some viewers. There was another line used earlier in the film that seemed to be added to appeal to Conservatives, but these two lines aside, the rest is golden.
For me it was like remembering the last four years of JSUK News posts in a gentle, eye watering way. It reminds us that humanity can be cruel, but at the same time kind.
A bittersweet experience, which closes things nicely for me. I will still be posting occasional DWP updates, but not every little thing.
It’s a shame politicans brandish this film ‘fiction’ and have no interest in even watching it. (Damien Green and Iain Duncan Smith respectively.)
I’ve been watching the DWP for the last four years and not liked it, they can’t even manage an hour and a half? That’s very telling, don’t you think?
Four stars out of five. Let down only by the obvious political pandering at the end of the film. (Which I enjoyed, but come on, don’t assume ALL Conservatives won’t watch your film.)