Loach delivers in Sorry We Missed You
31 October, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
Kris Hitchen in Sorry We Missed You
SORRY WE MISSED YOU
Directed by Ken Loach
“THE country is out of whack,” says Ricky to his wife as he realises the six days a week, 14-hour days he puts in at work is just seeing them fall further and further into debt.
Such a line sums up the theme Ken Loach tackles in his latest film – the extraordinary position we find ourselves in today, where nearly five million people work in low-paid jobs with no security and no chance of getting fairly rewarded for their toil.
Ricky (Kris Hitchen) lives in Newcastle with his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) and their two children.
Abbie is a carer, with a list of housebound people she has to see each day. Of course, social care has been farmed out to a private company who neither care about their staff nor their “clients”, and want Abbie to get round to all her charges as quickly as possible. She, of course, is only paid for the people she sees, and not the vast amount of time she spends travelling.
We learn Ricky is a grafter, and has done a series of jobs – a skilled labourer, who can turn his hand to anything on a building site or garden, the work just isn’t there for him – so he signs on as a delivery driver.
The firm he works for is the archetypal modern British company: a company that has no employees, but instead asks each to be a “franchise” – making them responsible for all aspects of the work, from providing their own vehicle (or renting one from the firm at extortionate rates) through to making sure their shift is covered if something keeps them from work.
The pressure of such a way to earn a living is laid bare – as are its effects on a family, and their lives together. As work increases the pressure on the parents, the children suffer.
All the targets are lined up – a well-meaning, hard-working couple who. despite their efforts. cannot get their heads above water. A family who had scrimped and saved to buy a home of their own 10 years ago, and then had it cruelly whipped away from them when Northern Rock building society went under because of gambling bankers in the USA and sub-prime mortgages.
This is firm ground for Ken Loach. While he has often turned his lens on the past to bring us historical, political adventures in films such as Land And Freedom or Jimmy’s Hall, he and writer Paul Lavery capture the issues of today with such clear-eyed, non-sentimental, non-judgemental clarity that you cannot help but clench your fists and fume.
At least 4.7 million people now work in the so-called “gig economy”, which is shorthand for employers ripping off their workers.
It’s an economy that Tory minister Liz Truss said she was entirely happy with (remember her “I’m an Uber-riding, Deliveroo-eating, Airbnb-ing freedom fighter for the gig economy” quote?), claiming, incredibly, the low wages, no sick pay, no holiday pay, sanctions, charges, fees meant it gave workers flexibility – a claim that this film demolishes with contemptuous ease.
This works well as a companion piece to the heart-breaking I, Daniel Blake. By taking on the gig economy is such a way Loach shows what is hiding in plain sight: the scandalous draining of an individual’s labour for others’ gain. Here we see the crisis of modern capitalism – and
Loach’s contribution to our national conversation has never felt more timely.
He knows how to score bullseyes – and his aim remains true here. This film is a detailed, well-constructed take down of everything that is wrong with how we organise our economy today.