Oh dear, the director Ken Loach really has made a lot of people very cross. (By a lot of people, I mean of course, the right wing press.) 'I, Daniel Blake' is a cracker of a film, telling a difficult story with humanity and wit. What should a man do when he's had a heart attack, been told not to work by his doctor, but is then told by the Benefits Office that he has to find work if he's going to receive financial assistance? Doesn't sound like great entertainment, does it?
But our local Tyneside Cinema was full for a Wednesday afternoon showing at 4.15 pm, the audience around me were gripped, audibly reacting to key scenes- and there was even a round of applause at the end. Now sometimes, our fellow-cinema-goers can be a right pain (Turn off that bleeping phone and stop chattering!) Not so today- because this film touched a common nerve. Yes, it was fun spotting the locations around our fair city - but the acting was authentic, we warmed to the central characters and there were several scenes (especially the moment in the food bank) that moved people to tears, myself included.
But why were we going to see it? 'I, Daniel Blake' definitely isn't a feelgood movie, an adventure romp with explosions or shocks, with toe-tapping songs or mind-boggling CGI. It's just a story about everyday people in the real world, struggling to overcome their difficulties- and finding common cause together- and that's possibly the film's hidden secret. In the most unlikely settings, little moments of grace and compassion show these people to be more than the 'scroungers' or 'benefit cheats' they've been labelled as. Poverty porn? No. These people had a dignity worth celebrating. Perhaps that's why the Daily Mail was so cross.
Was it 'entertainment', as such? Not really. Was it worth going to see? Most definitely, yes. Like any other film, it was a commercial product starring professional actors, designed to put bums on seats in cinemas and make some money. But the story it told was genuinely affecting and enriching, in a way that few stories are today.
So make the Daily Mail angry. Go see it soon.