Ken Loach: ‘If you’re not angry, what kind of person are you?’
Ken Loach sits with his hands clutching his chair for dear life, his head shrinking into his shoulders, a skinny question mark of a man. Never did a man appear so diffident. And then he opens his mouth.
Loach has spent the past half-century making films that shake with anger, and is just about to release his angriest yet. I, Daniel Blake, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes film festival, is about a man broken by the British benefits system. His doctor says he is too sick to work after a near-fatal heart attack, but the Department for Work and Pensions decides he is not entitled to sickness benefit. Blake finds himself trapped in a downward spiral after his jobseeker’s allowance is suspended, because he is thought not to be trying hard enough to find the work he is unfit to do. The film is so spare and spartan, it could be a parable. It is also immensely moving – particularly a scene in a food bank, when a young mother Blake has befriended breaks down in a manner that borders on the feral.