KEN LOACH’S ‘I, DANIEL BLAKE’: A BRIEF NOTE ON TWO ILL FOUNDED CRITICISMS

daniel-blake(1) ‘It’s sentimental‘ . No, it isn’t. ‘Sentimental’ is when you focus on how much you are enjoying your own sensitivity. Sentimentality’s essential object is oneself, and it’s faux, inauthentic, self indulgent. ‘Love Story’, for anyone who can recall it, was sentimental. IDB is emotional: its object is on the people portrayed and yes, it aims to upset you and make you angry – that is, if you are emotionally alive as a human being. This is not ‘sentimentality’.
(2) ‘The working class characters aren’t realistic: they don’t swear, scream or drink’. This one says more about the assumptions of the person making the criticism than it does about the film’s characters.
Under this heading we get, eg: ‘The mother doesn’t shout at her children: this makes her unreal‘: if you really think this is, I’ve news for you, then: not all working class mothers shout at their children (or if they do, they don’t do it often enough to make it characteristic). Mine didn’t. Would this criticism be levelled at depiction of a more bourgeois parent?
It’s unrealistic as Blake doesn’t smoke or drink‘:  give me a break: he’s just recovering from a heart attack, as he’s says, he’s ‘off the sauce ‘.
It’s true that in a single film, Loach hasn’t tried to show the entire spectrum of possible working class characters and lifestyles. How could he? He does, though, show addiction, mental health issues and dishonesty in his working class characters elsewhere.
Finally, if he does tend to show his working class characters as decent people, maybe that can be put in the balance against the tsunami of misrepresentation we usually get?

Benefits Street, anyone?

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About Chris Horner

teaches, studies and writes about philosophy and many other things. He is the co-uthor (with Emrys Westacott) of the CUP book 'Thinking Through Philosophy'. He has studied at the University of Sheffield, UEA, Goldsmiths and Roehampton University and has a PhD, the subject of which was Hannah Arendt and Kant's theory of reflective judgment. He has a strong interest in politics, history, literature, the visual arts and music.
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