One of the best films of 2016 was I, Daniel Blake. A vitriolic critique of Britain’s broken welfare system from acclaimed director Ken Loach. Now Loach is back with another relentlessly bleak and painfully relevant social drama; Sorry We Missed You.
Ricky (Kris Hitchen) is a former construction worker struggling to provide for his family in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. When Ricky begins working a zero-hour contract as a delivery driver for a big delivery firm, what seems like his salvation, quickly becomes a fresh hell. As his supervisor Maloney (Ross Brewster) explains to Ricky, he isn’t an employee, but a franchisee, effectively stripping him of workers’ rights. As well as supplying his own van (or pay £65 a day to rent a company van), Ricky is forced to work fourteen hours a day, six days a week, urinate into a plastic bottle to save time and is severely punished with crippling fines if the packages are not delivered on time. And without sick pay or paid days off, Ricky is also fined if he cannot find a replacement driver for his delivery route if he cannot do it himself due to an illness or family emergency.
Ricky sells the family car to afford a deposit for a delivery van, forcing his wife Abiie (Debbie Honeywood), an underpaid, zero-hour contract care worker, to use public transport to reach her clients. Both parents are overworked but remain trapped in poverty and debt no matter how hard they work. And it isn’t long before the combination of exhaustion, fatigue, ridiculously long shifts, stress and the actions of their rebellious son, Seb (Rhys Stone), shatter the family.
Ken Loach has never shied away from exploring complex and timely social issues in his films and in Sorry We Missed You, Loach has the gig economy and zero-hour contracts in his cross-hairs. Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty deliver a scathing and rage-filled indictment of a cruel system that exploits desperate workers and, sometimes, literally kills them. The story was partially inspired by Don Lane, a 53-year-old diabetic who died in 2018 after he failed to attend vital doctors appointments because he was scared of the fines he would receive if he missed work and could not get a replacement driver.
This is a real-life horror movie.
The performances (from a cast mostly consisting of unknown actors) are great and the characters are immensely likeable, meaning the hardships the family are put through are even more heart-wrenching to watch.
Ken Loach continues to be one of the most important voices in cinema with this powerful rallying cry for the oppressed.
Reviewed by Jordan Ellis.
Sorry We Missed You is currently screening.