I liked I, Daniel Blake (2016). It’s a good film that talks to ideas that I buy into; that there needs to be a social safety net and that people can be easily broken against institutions, especially when those in charge of them seem more interested in dismantling them and stigmatising those that need to access them.
And that is part of the problem. I didn’t go to this film to be challenged. I went on the promise of being able to tut at the current U.K. government. I went to our local cinema’s ‘On the Fringe‘ night and felt comfortable, with my free glass of wine, as I had all my thoughts mirrored on screen and wondered how people could be treated that way. I don’t think anyone in that room learnt anything.
The problem is the distribution. I don’t doubt that Ken Loach still has plenty of life and vigour in him and his films remain as urgent as ever but at this point who is watching apart from the converted? HBO’s recent genre series The Night Of (2016) made similar points about the U.S. justice system. It was a police procedural that re-trod very familiar ground (and actually fell apart a bit during the final episodes) but crucially it was made and marketed with a general audience in mind. The Night Of and it’s ideas will actually be talked about outside of critical and well-meaning social circles, I, Daniel Blake won’t.
I’m not casting any aspersions on anyone’s intent or talent here, the film is very good, evidently heartfelt and relentlessly human, but there’s surely a lesson to be learned about how we share ideas…