We saw the film I Daniel Blake last night. It documents two stories, that of a widowed 59-year-old carpenter named Daniel who’s had a recent heart attack and doctors have ordered not to work, and a single mother named Katie who has been forced to move to a different city to secure housing for herself and her two children. Try as she might Katie simply can’t find work in her new location. As the two are stymied time after time in their attempts to negotiate the welfare system they become friends and offer support to one another.
Both the young mother and the woodworker are good people, who honestly want to be self-sufficient. Circumstances and a rigid and less than compassionate government bureaucracy make it difficult for them to receive needed benefits. It drives them both to take some demeaning actions to survive.
The film illustrates just how easy it could be for hardworking, affable and intelligent people to become homeless and how reaching out to someone to make a connection can make a difference.
This is not a ‘feel good’ film or easy escapist fare. We overheard a man exiting the theatre say to his companion in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Thanks a lot for taking me to such a cheery movie.”
As we walked to our cars I asked my movie companions how many people like Daniel and Katie there could be right here in Winnipeg. “A lot more than we’d like to think,” one of them said.