Film review ‘SORRY WE MISSED YOU’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’
Sorry We Missed You is another gruelling and vitally important piece of social realism from veteran British director Ken Loach. There was a lot of talk about Joker capturing the destructive desperation of life at the lower end of the socio-economic scale but that film looks fanciful compared to this raw, sincere and heart-wrenching drama.
Sorry We Missed You explores a vital contemporary issue, the damage wrought by casualisation, the loss of job security, de-unionisation and exploitation by ruthless employers under the dubious guises of profit and progress. Working class Ricky (Chris Hitchen) who has bounced around from job to job since the economic devastation of the global financial crisis in 2008 tries to forge a future for his family by taking on a new role as a contracted parcel delivery driver. Forced to work ridiculously long hours on a near impossible schedule that doesn’t even leave him time to go to the toilet, he soon finds the stress impacting on his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) who herself struggles with conditions in her role as an in-home carer to the elderly and their children. As his disillusioned and delinquent teenage son Seb (Rhys Stone) begins to act out and his heartless boss berates and fines him for any indiscretion, Ricky’s life becomes a waking nightmare.
This is not the film to see if you want escapist entertainment. Apart from a few joyful moments, it’s relentlessly grim and never offers easy solutions but it’s always real. Ricky’s situation reflects the stressful existence so many are leading as they try to hold their lives together in an uncertain and unforgiving economy. Loach provides a timely warning about the roll-back of rights in the workplace, a world infused with myriad sinister Orwellian employment terms like ‘on-boarding’ instead of contracting and ‘sanctions’ instead of fines. It also shows utterly reprehensible workplace practices such as the drivers’ virtual enslavement to a mobile scanner that tracks their every move and forces them to adhere to a dangerously inflexible schedule.
In other hands a film like this could have been an indulgent wallow in misery but through Loach’s honest low-key direction, screenwriter Paul Laverty’s wonderfully perceptive script and the agonisingly convincing performances from all cast members, it’s a powerful humanist statement and a painfully realistic depiction of contemporary working life. Without contrivance or manipulation, the film is also a potent emotional drama inspiring deep compassion for Ricky, Abbie and their traumatised little daughter Liza Jane (Katie Proctor). It also inspires both anger and sympathy for the selfish, sometimes flat-out obnoxious but clearly troubled Seb and unequivocal fury at Ricky’s vile, thuggish and self-righteous boss (Ross Brewster).
Sorry We Missed You joins I, Daniel Blake as an important document of forgotten and desperately struggling people and as another poignant addition to Ken Loach’s vital body of work.
Nick’s rating: *****
Director(s): Ken Loach.
Release date: 26th Dec 2019.
Running time: 101 mins.
Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM. Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show