Staff Pick: If You Like Social Realism and Films With a Strong Message…

If you like social realist films that look honestly at our society, we recommend you check out I, Daniel Blake (2016). It’s directed by Ken Loach, whose films are known for their harsh realism and social commentary. I, Daniel Blake is a portrait of what it’s like to be poor in the UK. The main character, Daniel, is a carpenter who’s denied benefits after he has a heart attack and enters a lengthy and frustrating appeal process. He struggles because he doesn’t have basic computer skills, and the welfare system seems Kafka-esque in the way it’s set up to be impossible for him. Along the way he strikes up a friendship with a young, single mother who’s also struggling. The film takes a heartbreaking look at the daily humiliations that poor people are subjected to just to get by.

All this may make I, Daniel Blake sound bleak—but actually it’s watchable, warm, and touches your heart. The story is an indictment of the politics and bureaucracy that don’t treat people like human beings, and don’t give a wonderful human like Daniel Blake the dignity he deserves. British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he thought Prime Minister Theresa May should watch the movie to understand the realities of the welfare system.

I, Daniel Blake won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2016 and we think it’s going to go down as one of the best films about modern poverty. The movie is now out on Criterion Collection—you can buy I, Daniel Blake on Criterion here.