Directed by Ken Loach, Sorry We Missed You stars Kris
Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, and Katie Proctor as a family fighting
an uphill straggle against debt since the 2008 financial crisis. The dad Ricky
has a new job as a delivery driver, mother Abby works an aged persons and
disability carer, their son Seb is a wayward teen heading down a bad path, and
their daughter Lisa Jane is caught in the midst of the heartache, stress,
violence, and desperation of her family’s life.
Ken Loach is an angry filmmaker. From pretty much all his
films, he is decrying an injustice against people, whether it’s the historical
abuse of the Irish or generally the mistreatment of the British working class,
and he shows no signs of stopping. What’s sad is that he should stop making
movies, not because I don’t like them, but we shouldn’t have such grave
injustices against the working class and those in poorer conditions in the
first place. As long as the British government continues to commit harm and
destruction of these people, Ken Loach will be there to criticise it endlessly
in his well-made films.
Sorry We Missed You looks at a family just barely
hanging on after losing everything a decade ago, and where they’re at now isn’t
any better than not having anything. The film starts with Ricky’s boss Maloney
explaining all the stipulations and new terms for simple job like a delivery
driver. He’s not an employee, he’s a “self-employed franchisee”. What happens
in his job isn’t covered by any insurance and its his responsibility to pay for
a van, any broken equipment and sometimes he must work 14 hour days, 7 days a
week. In the first 5 minutes, we instantly understand that this is our world,
this is a job people are fighting for no matter what, and the higher-ups know
it an exploit that desire. And then there’s Abby struggling to keep an
honourable job caring for people with disabilities and aged persons. It’s a
soul crushing trudge that she has no choice about and must deal with all the
unfortunate things that come with such a job as well as trying to keep her
family together even as they all eventually clash and drift.
Loach is going after a more broad theme of labour exploitation
in the UK, showing the harsh realities that people face everyday in their
working class jobs for which they receive no compensation, assistance, or
workplace security, only more difficulties as things go on. He has some
beautiful moments of humanity layered within Ricky and Abby’s daily working
lives, like Ricky having Lisa Jane assist him in 1-hour deliveries or Abby
having her hair brushed by an old woman while she sings a lullaby to her. It is
in these touching and sweet moments, as well as the depressingly real ones that
I found myself refusing to believe that these actors aren’t real people plucked
from the shops. So much of this film feels like a documentary of real lives,
and the performances reflect this incredibly reality and suck you in deeper
into the sadness and truth of the situation.
Where Sorry We Missed You falters is not in its
performances, story or themes but in some of Loach’s execution. Comparatively, I,
Daniel Blake was just as angry at the British welfare system and the attempted
destruction of the middle class, but had a beautiful undercurrent of the life
of a man, mixed with tragedy and inspiration. Sorry We Missed You is
darker and more downbeat, and can at times fall into blunt territories where
Loach has previously been more subtle. This full-frontal and confronting
approach works for the most part but can hold the movie back from fully
engaging you in some important moments.
What sent me into a real philosophical and emotional spiral was the highly audacious ending. It’s not the content of the ending or anything, it’s just the ending itself, the fact that this movie ENDS in the way it does. Once you see it, you’ll understand what I mean, and the entire screening audience I was with was left stunned at its bleakness, pessimism but not feeling like it came out of nowhere. Loach and cinematographer Robbie Ryan shoot everything in this controlled, invisible point-of-view style like we are looking at things play out as observers, helpless to help these people. That is Loach’s direct intention, to make you feel sick as you watch people you feel like you know helpless to the system above them, its boot heel closing in on their necks, never understanding the beating pulse underneath. Sorry We Missed You is flawed and not of Loach’s best works, but it’s a vitally important story to be told right now and something which I implore you to see, as hard as it may be sometimes.
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