I, Daniel Blake is British director Ken Loach's twenty-sixth theatrical feature and his fourteenth with long-time scriptwriting collaborator Paul Laverty.
The film follows Daniel Blake, a 59 year old carpenter recovering from a heart attack, who befriends a single mother and her two children as they attempt to navigate their way through the frustrating benefits system.
Before submission to the BBFC, the film had appeared in competition at the Cannes Film festival, where it took home the coveted Palme D'Or against stiff competition from films such as the critically acclaimed German comedy Toni Erdmann. It was the second time Loach had won the prize, following the success of 2006's The Wind That Shakes The Barley. In his acceptance speech, Loach acknowledged the film's political message, stating “When there is despair, the people from the far right take advantage. We must say that another world is possible and necessary”.
In June 2016, the distributor, Entertainment One, sought advice from the BBFC, stating that they would like to release the film at the 12A category. Compliance Managers viewed a finished version and informed the distributor that the film would require a 15 category in its submitted form due to 'a single use of very strong language ('c**t') and just shy of thirty uses of strong language ('f**k').'
The use of very strong language is said in anger, but is not particularly aggressive and is not aggravated by other factors. BBFC Classification Guidelines at 15 state that:
'Strong language is permitted. Very strong language may be permitted, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency within the work as a whole and any special contextual justification.'
Other issues in the film are sex references, including to prostitution out of necessity, prescription drug use, criminality; and some unintentional racism, which may have been acceptable at the requested 12A with appropriate advice for consumers in the BBFCinsight for the film .
As required, Compliance Managers informed Entertainment One that they would need to remove the use of very strong language and significantly reduce the number of uses of strong language in order for the film to be passed at the requested 12A. They noted in reports that the film would likely have limited appeal to those under fifteen.
After the advice screening, a trailer was submitted for classification. The trailer submission had no category request and Compliance Officers noted that despite the poverty/unemployment theme, the trailer is quite uplifting and issue-free . The trailer contains just a single use of the term 'Jesus Christ', language permitted under BBFC Classification Guidelines at U.
I, Daniel Blake was submitted for formal classification in August 2016, with its release scheduled for October. It was submitted with a 15 request and passed at that category, with the BBFCinsight 'very strong language'.
The detailed BBFCinsight notes that there is:
'…infrequent use of very strong language ('c**t'), as well as more frequent use of strong language ('f**k'). Milder terms include 'bastard', 'bullshit, 'wanker', and 'twats'. Other issues include visual and verbal references to prostitution.'
The film was released on 21st October 2016, the same weekend as Disney's TROLLS and the start of the autumn half term school holidays. It took ninth place in the overall box office chart but, showing on only 94 screens as opposed to the 963 occupied by TROLLS, its per screen average of £4732 was the third highest of that week, with sequel JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK taking second place. It was Ken Loach's best ever opening and the film went on to further success on DVD and streaming services.
The BBFC received no complaints about the film's rating.