Ricky (Kris Hitchen) has been struggling job-wise for a while, so he is very excited when he gets the opportunity to start as a subcontractor for a delivery company. It does mean selling his wife Abby’s (Debbie Honeywood) car to buy a truck, complicating her own work day as a carer, going from home visit to home visit. Both are out all day for six days a week to barely get enough money to get by – which is also difficult for their two children, Seb (Rhys Stone) who is in full puberty mode and Liza Jae (Katie Proctor) who is anxious all the time. What looked to be a great possibility for the whole family soon turns out more curse than blessing.
You can always rely on Ken Loach to put the finger where it hurts, to point out exactly the ways in which (neoliberal, capitalist) society is fundamentally broken. Sorry We Missed You is another effective and affective political/sociological analysis in movie form.
I feel like I could basically use the review I wrote for I, Daniel Blake almost word-for-word for the review of Sorry We Missed You. That is to say: Loach and Laverty did it again. They show that even good people who do everything right, everything that is expected of them in neoliberal capitalism – work hard and relentlessly for their dreams, take every opportunity to do a little better – get utterly screwed in the end. Now imagine the same thing for people who are unable or unwilling to do all of that – to work 50 hour weeks and pay fines if they fall even slightly behind from pay that is not all that great to begin with and mostly used to pay back debt.
But in its course, the film touches on so many things outside of work (although they are of course intertwined): the way the entire family suffers from the huge pressure put on the parents through their work gives an 11-year-old such anxiety, she pees the bed. It exhausts Ricky so much, he completely loses control when faced with Seb’s pubertal misbehavior. And Seb is at a loss. He has to misbehave that much or he doesn’t get to see his parents at all.
With Abby’s work as a carer (and a hospital visit the family has to face), we also see that the (health) care system is just as broken: Abby struggles to find even the smallest bits of time to actually talk to her clients (a word she hates). Actual, emotional care is actively discouraged by her employer. She has a zero hour contract – she only gets paid for the hours she actually spends with the clients, no breaks, no travel time, no sick leave, no holidays. And she can hardly say no in case of emergency because that will mean her clients just don’t get the care they need.
Loach and Laverty structure their film in a naturalistic sequence of everyday catastrophes and frustrations, but also joys and companionship. The actors – all not very experienced and/or professional – feel like they are plucked directly from life. A documentary couldn’t feel more accurate than what we get here. And the reality we get here is scary and brutal and we should all be on the streets shouting about it all the time. Let’s do it.
Summarizing: down with capitalism.