I, Daniel Blake

Surely, it was “Coronation Street“‘s purpose, or even “Eastenders“‘, to tell the story of ordinary people facing extraordinary pressures, because our benefits system is not the vision for social security we once had.
A 100 minutes film format for portraying the crises in 4 lives in a way that doesn’t over simplify is a big challenge:-
– a carpenter with no perception of how a computer mouse might be used;
– an employer who spends ages picking someone out and then crudely drops the offer;
– failing to show the potential of using an Advice Group (or even checking with an MP);
– DWP staff who work to a system in an automaton way;
– even the out of date response to a victim of a heart-attack.
If these criticisms seem harsh,  then OK, but it’s what happens when you choose a shorter format.
Alan Bleasdale’s “Men from the Blackstuff” in the early eighties was far better, but it had 6 episodes, and a determination to show the values and culture of the organised labour movement.
I have to say, as challenging as the JSA system could be – or as the film suggests, pointless – my experience of staff attitude (and ‘rigour’) was different (if possibly 5 years out of date).
I’ve seen people celebrate the film as a campaigning tool, and Broadway’s screen 3 was fully booked twice today – people were asked in the spirit of solidarity to not take up empty seats with their coats – so I get that others see the film far more positively than I do, including cinema-goers (see above) and reviewers (Guardian, Little White Lies).
In the meantime, if you have a problem with money, seek advice beyond DWP.


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