Monday, November 28, 2016
Review of 'I, Daniel Blake'
I didn't sleep much afterwards. It's not that the stories depicted in it were a surprise. I've read plenty of similar cases on social media, and sometimes even in The Guardian. Seeing it depicted as part of a film is powerful, though; and it's made more so because the film doesn't present a black and white picture of almost anyone. Most of the bureaucrats at the DWP aren't specially horrible (apart from the 'Sheila' character), and manage to convey that they are trying to do the best they can of an impossible job. The people who provide the young mum with a job in prostitution don't seem to be evil exploitative pimps, and there's no suggestion that they are ripping her off or abusing her. The two chancers next door importing trainers direct from the factory in Shanghai are decent enough, even though they are a bit careless with their rubbish.
It was a good film, with a few light touches despite the nearly-unremitting misery of the subject matter. It depicted the best in people as well as the worst - the way they'll help each other out, given half a chance. It wasn't Hollywood - it didn't offer unreasonable and implausible consolations; in a Hollywood movie Karen, the young mum, would have been motivated to complete her studies so that she could rise out of her class.
And it made me think a lot about what we - and specifically me - could be doing, now, that would help people like Daniel to endure, survive and resist. I'm not doing much, frankly. I was aware that skills that I have that I take for granted - how to fill in a form online, for example, or format a CV in word - would be really useful to some people. I was also moved to look for Claimants Unions, which I remembered from the 1980s. There are still some around, and maybe I ought to be volunteering or helping out there. I've been reading around the 'solidarity economy' and platform co-ops lately, but couldn't help thinking that however successful any of that was, we'd still need a welfare state to compensate for 'brute luck'.