- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole – I, Daniel Blake

| October 28, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of I, Daniel Blake.

Really? This won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year? This film? Not American Honey, Toni Erdmann, or even Hell or Highwater? This film was declared the best film at Cannes, the most prestigious film festival of the year. I mean, the film isn’t bad. But it all of the films I just listed are better films. And this isn’t even a matter of artistic choice and preference. Last year Dheepan won the Palme at Cannes, but I personally thought Youth was the best film of the year. Both were fantastic films, they both sit in my top ten of 2015. I personally liked the artistic choices in Youth better than Dheepan, but I can see why some would like Dheepan more. I, Daniel Blake is just an inferiorly made film. There are basic filmmaking issues in the film that I can look past but these are elements that are needed in a good film, especially the winner of the Palme d’Or.

I, Daniel Blake is a film directed by Ken Loach at the prime age of 80 years old. I will admit that I have not seen any other films by Ken Loach, so if I complain about something in this that sounds like his style then I apologize but I will say that his style is poor here. The film follows Daniel Blake, played by Dave Johns, an old widowed man who is attempting to find any kind of income while he heals from a heart attack that leaves him without work. Daniel Blake soon befriends a mother of two who is dealing with her own financial struggles, played by Hayley Squires. The film follows them on their endeavors and their dissatisfaction with the house tax and the Employment and Support Allowance in the UK.

The film ends up being “Let’s Watch Daniel Blake Get Annoyed With The ESA And Build Things For This Unfortunate Family: The Movie”. You get to see him talk to people in person who don’t help him! You get to see him try to work a computer! You get to see him wait while his call is on hold! Were you disappointed in how loud and fast American Honey was? Then this film is just for you! I say that as a joke, but the target audience for this film and American Honey are complete opposites of each other.

I understand if you say that, “Oh but this film is accurate to the reality of the ESA”! I’m sure it is, but you have to do something to win me over to want to watch it unfold. The acting in the film is okay but sometimes slips into flat out bad. Dave Johns and Hayley Squires, where I haven’t seen them in anything else, do an okay job but the writing is so bland and sometimes annoying that it is hard for me to relate to the characters. The suspension of disbelief never fully reached it’s potential for me to care.

One of the biggest issues I had in the film is that it makes everyone who works with the ESA to be a mustache twirling villain. They all hate everyone without showing any other sign of emotion or understanding. Even the one who feels bad for Daniel Blake is later brought in by her boss and is yelled at for being nice. You might think “That’s how it’s supposed to be, that’s realistic”. Except it’s not. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t seen the film, but it is comical how much these people talk with an attitude of not understanding or caring. It just doesn’t make sense and rips me out of the film.

The film has a very uninspired look to it as well. It feels very much like there was no love or emotion put into the film. As the film ended I realized that this is nothing more than a glorified Lifetime Movie. Every shot, I’ve seen before. Every scene, I’ve seen before. There is almost nothing original about this film. There are a total of two scenes that I genuinely enjoyed. The first being a scene in a food bank and the second being the scene where the film gets it’s title from. But those two scenes don’t warrant the film being called fantastic in my mind. There are too many other clichés for me to truly enjoy it.

Like I said before, this film feels like a Lifetime Movie. If you see it on television, I imagine you would like it a fair amount. But when I went in think it would be in my best of the year list, I was highly disappointed. Maybe the film needs a re-watch in the future. Maybe I should have lowered my expectations. But nothing hit it home for me. I think that people should know about the problems the film is trying to express, concerning the ESA and how hard it is for lower class citizens of the UK. But I, Daniel Blake fails in making me care for the subjects in the film. This is something that would have worked much better if it was a documentary and not a fictional story.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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