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Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach) - DVD Review

Sorry We Missed You

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

KEN Loach may not make films that you can enjoy. But he does make films that are difficult to forget. Sorry We Missed You, his latest, follows the likes of I, Daniel Blake in offering a look at a shameful area of British life and the toll it takes on those forced to live it.

On this occasion, it’s the gig economy and zero hours contracts, as seen through the eyes of a delivery driver named Ricky (played by Kris Hitchen) and his contract nurse and in-home carer wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), both living in Newcastle and struggling to keep a roof over their heads while raising two children.

The former is an ex-construction worker who lost both his building work and his chance of a mortgage after the economic crash of 2008. A hard worker, Ricky is persuaded to take a job driving for a big delivery company. But the job in question is harder than at first sold.

For starters, Ricky is essentially self-employed (despite working for the company six-days a week and sometimes up to 14 hours a day). There are sanctions whenever he misses a job and fines for missing a day, no matter what the circumstances. And then there’s the essential scanner, which keeps track of both Ricky’s parcels and Ricky himself… a hand-held device that would cost over £1,000 if it is lost or damaged.

From the moment Ricky is told about the rules of the job by the firm’s hard-line manager Maloney (Ross Brewster), you know trouble lies ahead.

Abbie, for her part, is a care nurse who has to visit dozens of disabled, elderly and vulnerable people every day for their meals, baths and ‘tuck-ins’, often dealing with their toilet mishaps and emotional meltdowns, while battling to get from one job to the next via bus, following the decision to sell her car in order to finance Ricky’s van.

The demands of each respective day subsequently places extra strain on both their marriage and their relationships with their kids: Seb (Rhys Stone), a difficult teen with bags of artistic potential but who is frequently in trouble with the authorities, and his smarter, more sensitive younger sister, Liza Jane (Katie Proctor).

Loach, working from a script that has been meticulously researched by regular collaborator Paul Laverty, piles on the tension, stretching the family to breaking point and beyond.

Sorry We Missed You

And yet, as overly dramatic as the scenarios sometimes feel, there’s a nagging suspicion that what’s depicted on-screen is all too real (and all too buried by those refusing to pay attention). A brief investigation online shows that Sorry We Missed You does draw from real-life stories and even refrains from seeing them through to some shocking conclusions.

One such true story stems from a wife who lost her delivery driver husband because he was too afraid to take a day off to tend to his medical needs. Another, reported by the Guardian newspaper, involved a delivery driver who lost his job with a big name delivery company because he wanted to take time off to look after his terminally ill wife.

Such situations are alluded to in Sorry We Missed You, when focusing on Ricky’s story. But Abbie’s plight is no less desperate, with Loach and Laverty also shining a light on the terrifying social care situation facing countless elderly and infirm people.

Both Hitchen and Honeywood excel in their respective roles, offering flawed but battling everyman characters who find themselves repeatedly swimming against the tide just to stay afloat. Loach affords them one or two moments in the sun. But for the most part, their life feels like a ticking time bomb. They struggle as parents and as workers.

A belated scene in a hospital, in which Abbie finally loses her cool, feels like Loach’s rallying cry to the nation [and the government] to stop allowing this kind of exploitation [you could call it modern day slavery] to continue. But while most Hollywood ventures would, indeed, find key characters kicking on to beat the establishment and overcome their hardships, Sorry We Missed You offers no such respite.

The ending is bleak and deliberately provocative. There are no easy solutions. Audiences can only assume what happens next. Like so much of Loach’s work, the experience of watching Sorry We Missed You feels desperately exhausting and, worse, depressing.

And yet, the cold, hard truth is that what we’re witnessing is real. There’s no escaping it. Loach’s film offers a gut punch that is designed to awake a nation from its ignorance. For that reason, it is essential – if gruelling – viewing.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 41mins
UK DVD Release: March 9, 2020