This is a film about community, about kindness and what it is to be human. It’s about people helping each other even when they themselves have nothing but hope.
Widower Daniel Blake is living alone and has just had a heart attack and so, obvious to most of us, he needs some time off to recuperate. No-one needs to have a doctor tell them this.
And yet the jobs-worth people at the job centre are not most people. Well, not most of them.
If you know me, no doubt I have lamented to you about similar stories about people I know. And you probably know people who have been treated with the same lack of courtesy. And yet my heart broke every time Daniel Blake was mis-treated.
The lack of decency shown by security guards, managers and ‘healthcare professionals’* at this fictional Job Centre in the North East is preposterous.
Daniel was an amazing carpenter for 40 of his 59 years. No JCPer saw his skills or compassion towards others. No-one saw his heart attack or appeared to listened to him when his doctors said he can’t work until he’s fully recovered. No-one noticed his mounting bills or what he did to survive in his own home. No-one noticed because they are not in the business of other people’s welfare, just their own, as far as I can tell.
The only person that has common sense and took an interest was watching her back throughout and then was reprimanded for ‘setting a precedent’. Indeed there was no encouragement to look for appropriate work, or to work from home, or for himself as he could do that possibly on a part time basis once he had recovered and lessen the risk of another heart attack. They just saw his claim forms and him physically walking around and so fit to work.
Daniel was not able to claim anything other than job seekers allowance which means he has to promise to look for work on a full time basis. His doctors telling him one thing, the people in control of his welfare telling him another.
Of course, we are hearing more and more stories like this and that’s why I wasn’t the only one reaching for a tissue in the cinema. This could happen to anyone. It made me think of someone who I once met at a job centre event and I got to wonder how she was. (After several days I found her on Twitter and she’s active at least).
Another tissue came out when we see how much Daniel does for a fellow claimant, single mother and what he does for his young neighbours. In fact each time a random act of kindness comes from one of these desperate job-seekers, looking to make ends meet and have something resembling a life it tugs at the heart strings.
The food bank scenes warrant the most tissues. I learn people need a referral to use these and made a mental note to ask one if they’d want spare toiletries as I have lots gathered from hotels, freebies and goodie bags (I’ve been asking for years, it’s often harder to give things away free).
Throughout, there is a huge sense of community amongst those forced into the same situation and equally, a huge loss of humanity from those paid out of our taxes who have all of the control. Watch if you work or have an interest in social services, or indeed if you care about people.