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I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake
I, Daniel Blake.png
British release poster
Directed by Ken Loach
Produced by Rebecca O'Brien
Written by Paul Laverty
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Robbie Ryan
Edited by Jonathan Morris
Distributed by
Release date
  • 13 May 2016 (2016-05-13) (Cannes)
  • 21 October 2016 (2016-10-21) (United Kingdom)
Running time
100 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
  • Belgium
Language English
Box office $12.45 million[2]

I, Daniel Blake is a 2016 British-French-German drama film directed by Ken Loach and written by Loach's frequent collaborator Paul Laverty. The film stars Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan, and Briana Shann.

It won the Palme d'Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and the Prix du public at the 2016 Locarno International Film Festival.[3][4][5]


Daniel Blake is a 59-year-old joiner living in Newcastle, who has had a heart attack at work. His recovery is incomplete and his cardiologist is concerned that Daniel's heart might begin to beat abnormally, putting him at risk of developing a life-threatening arrhythmia. She tells him that he is not ready to go back to work.

Daniel applies for the sickness benefit called 'Employment and Support Allowance'. He gets it at first, but when an eligibility test is carried out, his points tally is slightly below the threshold needed to keep receiving payments. As a result, he is deemed to be able to work. Daniel had assumed that the unspecified healthcare professional who carried out his Work Capability Assessment, a simplistic box-ticking exercise, had contacted his doctor for information on his condition, but she had not. Consequently, the test's criterion for people who are at risk – which would have qualified Daniel for sickness benefits by itself – is not applied by a government "decision-maker". The supervisor at the job centre says Daniel's only option is to claim Jobseekers Allowance. As a condition of receiving Jobseekers Allowance, he must actively look for work. Daniel launches a legal appeal against being found fit for work but he finds it difficult because he is not computer literate.

Daniel gets to know single mother Katie and her two children, Dylan and Daisy, who have left a homeless persons' hostel in London and, with no other affordable accommodation being available in the capital, have moved to Daniel's home town, a place unfamiliar to Katie and her children. On her first visit to the Job Centre Katie was "sanctioned" — her benefits were stopped because she briefly got lost on the way there — and she can no longer feed all her family nor heat their flat.

Widower Daniel, single-parent Katie and her children try to deal with the problems they face together. They visit a food bank and Katie is overcome by hunger. She is slowly drawn into the black economy, while Daniel seeks work on the local industrial estate and is offered a job working in a scrapyard. He reluctantly turns it down, with his doctor's advice in mind. Daniel's "work coach" feels he is not making enough effort to get a job. Daniel becomes disillusioned and sprays "I, Daniel Blake demand my appeal date before I starve" on the job centre's outside wall. The bystanders sympathize with him, but he's taken away by the police and given a formal warning. Daniel sells most of his belongings and becomes very withdrawn.

Finally, Daniel's appeal date arrives. He goes to the appeal court, with Katie to support him, where he meets his welfare rights adviser. The adviser has obtained copies of the medical records and he advises Daniel that his case looks sound. On glimpsing the judge and doctor who will decide on his appeal, Daniel becomes anxious. He goes to the washroom to cool down. Shortly afterwards, someone shouts for an ambulance. Daniel has collapsed. The tribunal doctor is called but finds that Daniel has no pulse. She begins CPR — unsuccessfully.

At his "pauper's funeral", Katie reads the eulogy, including a speech Daniel had intended to read out at his appeal. Daniel's speech describes his feelings about how the welfare system failed him; treating him like a number and not like a man who was proud to say he'd paid his dues to society.



Principal photography began in October 2015 in Newcastle upon Tyne and the surrounding area.[6] The film was produced by Rebecca O'Brien[7] for Sixteen Films, Why Not Productions and Wild Bunch with the support of the British Film Institute and BBC Films.[8]


Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93%, based on 107 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10.[9] The site's consensus reads: "I, Daniel Blake marks yet another well-told chapter in director Ken Loach's powerfully populist filmography."[9] On Metacritic the film has a score of 78 out of 100 score, based on 23 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[10]

Box office

I, Daniel Blake became Ken Loach's biggest success at the UK box office, especially as the film sparked debate in the country.[11][12]

Political response

There has been a wide variety of both praise and criticism of the film from politicians. Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith referred to the film as unfair, aiming particular criticism at its portrayal of Jobcentre staff, saying: "This idea that everybody is out to crunch you, I think it has really hurt Jobcentre staff who don’t see themselves as that."[13] Producer Rebecca O'Brien responded by stating that Duncan Smith "is living in cloud cuckoo land."[14]

Similarly, on an episode of BBC's topical debate programme Question Time broadcast on 27 October 2016, which featured Ken Loach as a panellist, Business Secretary Greg Clark described the film as "a fictional film",[15] saying "It’s a difficult job administering a benefits system...Department of Work and Pensions staff have to make incredibly difficult decisions and I think they should have our support in making those decisions."[15] Loach responded to this by criticising the pressure that DWP staff are placed under.[15]

Conversely, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared at the film's London premiere with the director, then subsequently praised the film on his Facebook page.[16] In a session of Prime Minister's Questions on 2 November 2016, he advised Prime Minister Theresa May to watch the film, as he criticised the fairness of the welfare system.[17]


List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
British Academy Film Awards 12 February 2017 Best Film Rebecca O'Brien Nominated [18][19]
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Hayley Squires Nominated
Best Direction Ken Loach Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Paul Laverty Nominated
Best British Film Paul Laverty, Ken Loach and Rebecca O'Brien Won
British Independent Film Awards 4 December 2016 Best British Independent Film I, Daniel Blake Nominated [20]
Best Director Ken Loach Nominated
Best Actor Dave Johns Won
Best Actress Hayley Squires Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer Dave Johns Nominated
Hayley Squires Won
Best Screenplay Paul Laverty Nominated
Cannes Film Festival 22 May 2016 Palme d'Or Ken Loach Won [21]
Palm DogManitarian Award Ken Loach (showcasing a three-legged dog named Shea) Won
Denver Film Festival 14 November 2016 Special Jury Prize: Best Actress Hayley Squires Won [22]
European Film Awards 10 December 2016 Best Film I, Daniel Blake Nominated [23]
Best Director Ken Loach Nominated
Best Actor Dave Johns Nominated
Best Screenwriter Paul Laverty Nominated
Evening Standard British Film Awards 8 December 2016 Best Film I, Daniel Blake Won [24]
Best Actor Dave Johns Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Hayley Squires Won
Best Screenplay Paul Laverty Nominated
Most Powerful Scene Award I, Daniel Blake Won
Golden Tomato Awards 12 January 2017 Best British Movie 2016 I, Daniel Blake 3rd Place [26]
Locarno International Film Festival 13 August 2016 Prix du public Ken Loach Won [5]
London Film Critics' Circle 22 January 2017 Film of the Year I, Daniel Blake Nominated [27]
British/Irish Film of the Year I, Daniel Blake Won
British/Irish Actor of the Year Dave Johns Nominated
British/Irish Actress of the Year Hayley Squires Nominated
New York Film Critics Online 11 December 2016 Top 12 Films I, Daniel Blake Won [28]
San Sebastián International Film Festival 24 September 2016 Audience Award: Best Film Ken Loach Won [29]
Stockholm International Film Festival 20 November 2016 Audience Award: Best Film Ken Loach Won [30]
Vancouver International Film Festival 14 October 2016 Most Popular International Feature Ken Loach Won [31]


  1. ^ "I, Daniel Blake (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 18 August 2016. Retrieved 19 August 2016. 
  2. ^ "I, Daniel Blake". Box Office Mojo. 
  3. ^ Lee, Benjamin (22 May 2016). "Cannes 2016: Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake wins the Palme d'Or - live!". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  4. ^ "Cannes Film Festival Winners: Palme d'Or To Ken Loach's 'I, Daniel Blake'". Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "Palmarès 2016". Locarno. 
  6. ^ Hodgson, Barbara (8 November 2015). "Award-winning director Ken Loach takes to the streets of Newcastle to shoot his latest feature film". Evening Chronicle. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  7. ^ Solutions, Starlight. "People :: Rebecca O'Brien". Retrieved 26 May 2016. 
  8. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (12 May 2016). "Cannes Film Review: 'I, Daniel Blake'". Variety. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  9. ^ a b "I, Daniel Blake". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2 February 2017. 
  10. ^ "I, Daniel Blake reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2 February 2017. 
  11. ^ []
  12. ^ []
  13. ^ []
  14. ^ []
  15. ^ a b c []
  16. ^ []
  17. ^ []
  18. ^ Ritman, Alex (9 January 2017). "BAFTA Awards: 'La La Land' Leads Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 January 2017. 
  19. ^ Hipes, Patrick (12 February 2017). "BAFTA Awards Winners List (LIVE)". Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  20. ^ Evans, Alan (1 November 2016). "I, Daniel Blake leads British independent film award nominations". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  21. ^ "Cannes 2016". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  22. ^ "AWARD WINNERS FOR 39th DENVER FILM FESTIVAL - Denver Film Festival". Denver Film Festival. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  23. ^ Evans, Alan (7 November 2016). "Toni Erdmann leads nominations at European film awards". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  24. ^ Moore, William (17 November 2016). "Evening Standard British Film Awards - The Longlist". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 29 November 2016. 
  25. ^ Norum, Ben (9 December 2016). "Evening Standard British Film Awards: Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Grant Crowned". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  26. ^ "Golden Tomato Awards - Best of 2016". Rotten Tomatoes. 12 January 2017. 
  27. ^ "'Moonlight' and 'Love and Friendship' Lead London Film Critics' Circle Nominations". Variety. 20 December 2016. Retrieved 20 December 2016. 
  28. ^ "'Moonlight' Named Best Picture by New York Film Critics Online Association". The Hollywood Reporter. 11 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  29. ^ Rosser, Michael (19 August 2016). "San Sebastian: 'I, Daniel Blake', 'Fire At Sea' in Pearls line-up". Screen Daily. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  30. ^ Ramsay, Angela. "Ken Loach's I, DANIEL BLAKE Wins Stockholm Audience Award at Stockholm Film Fest". Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  31. ^ "Maudie Wins Coveted VIFF Super Channel People's Choice Award" (Press release). Greater Vancouver International Film Festival Society. 14 October 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  32. ^ Stuart Derdeyn (16 October 2016). "Maudie wins People's Choice Award at VIFF". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 

External links