Put simply, Ken Loach has done it again. The director that brought us Kes and I, Daniel Blake has provided yet another important, harrowing insight into the lives of the less fortunate.
Sorry We Missed You is a scathing attack on the gig economy that has emerged in Britain and elsewhere. Ricky Turner, played brilliantly by Kris Hitchin, is desperate to carve out a better life for his family. Sick of being bossed around and in a bid to make ends meet, he decides to become a delivery driver, sold a seductive lie that he will “be his own boss”. Tragically, it becomes apparent that “working with us, not for us” as his callous supervisor puts it, means that he is simply a target for exploitation by companies that dextrously dodge labour legislation.
Of course, the story is predictable, yet this does nothing to make the film less impactful. As things go from bad to worse, the audience can do nothing but watch in despair as everything the family holds dear is ripped away from them. We are powerless to act as ominous signs and constant foreshadowing become increasingly prevalent. This ensures the film is a heart wrenching, breath-taking experience – a shining example of modern social commentary and drama at its devastating best.
Its predictability of plot is furthered by its many parallels with other works, such as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, written over half a century ago. Yet, this is only testament to the fact that the challenges facing working people have not disappeared, and in the digital age, have taken on new forms.
The story is more relevant and important now than ever before, as Loach targets modern developments such as the “tracking” of packages and zero-hour contracts. Ricky’s subservience to a little black box that dictates when and where he can be at all times, not even allowing him the time to use a proper toilet, is a devastatingly effective symbol of the emerging practices of the gig economy. Loach reveals the truth of workers with little rights work tirelessly at the whim of heartless machines and uncaring supervisors.
Sorry We Missed You’s characters act as vehicles in asking piercing and relevant questions. On one occasion, a disabled, elderly person who is cared for by Ricky’s wife, Abbie, laments the hours the pair are forced to work and asks in bewilderment “whatever happened to the eight-hour week?”. In instances such as this, Loach’s political message is glaringly obvious but delivered in a way that savours cinematic drama while avoiding the tendency to rant.
Special attention must be drawn to the performance of Debbie Honeywood as Abbie Turner, who delivers one of the best supporting actors’ performances of this year. At times, her capturing of sorrow and anger renders the film almost documentary-like in its conviction. Loach unsurprisingly uses her talent expertly to construct scenes that demand emotional response, such is the genius and passion behind Honeywood’s exceptional work.
Sorry We Missed You is a hugely important film, zooming in on the harsh reality for an increasing number of workers in the expanding gig economy, serving as a warning and well delivered outburst. It is a fantastic piece of art that slots right in amongst the other great works of Ken Loach, who continues to produce brilliance decades on from his earlier successes.
Image: Georges Biard via Wikipedia