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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary from 2016 featuring Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty
  • How to Make a Ken Loach Film, a 2016 documentary on the production of I, Daniel Blake, featuring interviews with Ken Loach, {p2], actors Dave Johns and Haley Squires, director of photography Robbie Ryan, producer Rebecca O'Brien, and casting director Kathleen Crawford
  • Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach, a 93-minute documentary from 2016, directed by Louise Osmond
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic Girish Shambu

I, Daniel Blake

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ken Loach
2016 | 100 Minutes | Licensor: Sundance Selects

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #906
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: January 16, 2018
Review Date: January 14, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

An urgent response to the political realities of contemporary Britain, this bracing drama from celebrated filmmaker Ken Loach takes a hard look at bureaucratic injustice and ineptitude through the eyes of an unassuming working-class hero. After a heart attack leaves him unable to hold a job, the widowed carpenter Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) begins a long, lonely journey through the Kafka-esque labyrinth of the local welfare state. Along the way, he strikes up a friendship with a single mother (Hayley Squires) and her two children, at the mercy of the same system after being evicted from their home. Imbued with gentle humor and quiet rage and conceived for maximum real-world impact, the Palme d’Or–winning I, Daniel Blake is a testament to Loach’s tireless commitment to a cinema of social engagement.


PICTURE

Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake makes its Blu-ray debut in North America through the Criterion Collection, who present the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. I was pleased to see the movie was shot on film and this 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a 2K scan of the 35mm original camera negative.

The film is only a couple of years old so I wasn’t too shocked to find it looks very good here. There is no damage of any sort or imperfection to speak of and what we get in the end does look like a film. The fine grain looks great giving the image a nice texture, and this leads to excellent detail and depth throughout. Colours are muted but I still found them to be saturated well and fairly bold at times, while black levels are deep and clean, allowing for strong shadow detail in some of the film’s darker sequences. It’s a really rich looking image.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

For a low-key, more talkative film it still manages to make decent use of the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround presentation. Most everything is focused to the fronts, with some noticeable and distinct panning between the front speakers when called for. Surrounds do kick in for background effects to fill busy streets or crowded offices, doing so in a subtle manner but it’s effective. Direction is clear and natural. Admittedly some North American audiences may have some trouble with a few accents but dialogue is still sharp and clear, and there is a superb level of fidelity and range present. In all it sounds really good.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Other than the addition of one significant feature Criterion is pretty much porting the eOne Blu-ray edition over from the UK to North America, starting with the audio commentary featuring Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty. Laverty seems to have the reigns with Loach chiming in throughout when needed, which is a little disappointing initially but the track ends up proving to be an incredibly engaging discussion. Most of their discussion covers the research that went into the script, which meant delving deep into government assistance programs, getting the forms, talking to employees and those who have first-hand experience. Their research uncovered lot of material that came off darkly humourous, which they wanted to translate to the screen, but they also got a sense that the system was purposely set up to be confusing and irritating in the hopes that people would just give up, something else they needed to convey. It’s here where Loach talks about how to visualize all of this and how to keep the narrative going (and interesting) without it getting overwhelmed by the details in this bureaucracy. As they get into the deeper workings of this British system they are also thankfully aware that people outside of the country might be listening to this track and do contextualize things where needed. It’s a really terrific track, filled with wonderful information while also be surprisingly energetic and engaging.

The release also carries over more features from the eOne disc, including nine deleted scenes (running under 8-minutes) and a 38-minute making-of documentary called How to Make a Ken Loach Film. The making-of is a better-than-average one, providing interviews with a number of people from the crew and cast, including Loach himself. There’s also a great amount of behind-the-scene material, from Loach directing extras to putting the costume together for the character of Daniel Blake. The deleted scenes are actually all pretty good, though I think they were probably cut because they would have been repetitive in covering Blake’s plight in either trying to get a hold of the elusive “decision maker” or just making his way through the endless maze of departments and operators he works his way through. I did rather like one scene, though, where Blake messes with his entrepreneurial neighbours a bit, and I also liked the extended bit around the resume building workshop which focuses on some of the other participants (I assume this was trimmed just to keep the focus on Daniel).

Criterion does improve upon the UK edition by adding the feature-length 94-minute 2016 documentary Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach. Made around the time Loach was making I, Daniel Blake (a film he would come to make after originally retiring a year or so before) it offers a retrospective of his career from his early television work to his eventual breakthrough into film with Kes and then the dry spell and controversies that popped up (including a series of television documentaries he made about the British Trade Union Movement that caused a stir when the films ended up questioning the leadership) before his comeback with Hidden Agenda in 1990. It goes through the usual beats a film of this type does, stepping through each period of the director’s career, looking at his films (with plenty of clips), gathering stories from those who have worked with him, and so on, but it feels far more personal than I was expecting and all the better because of it. A really significant addition.

The title then features an insert with a short essay by Girish Shambu covering the impact the film had at the time of its release in the UK along with a quick look at Loach’s previous works. The exterior of the insert is also adorned with a collection of quotes that I’m guessing were taken from interviews conducted by Laverty while researching. I would have probably hoped for some more academic material to be included in the end but we still get an excellent collection of material, the feature documentary being the gem here.

8/10

CLOSING

Even if it was a straight port of the UK release it would still be a really strong edition with an excellent audio/video presentation and some rich and informative extras. The inclusion of the Loach documentary, though, makes it an even more significant release. Highly recommended.


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