‘Sorry we missed you’, Loach film review

This 21 October 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Kris Hitchen & Katie Proctor on Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You

Kris Hitchen & Katie Proctor are interviewed for their new Sorry We Missed You from director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty. The film stars Kris Hitchen,

as a forty-something delivery driver

Debbie Joneywood,

as his wife, a carer on a zero hours contract

Nikki Marshall, Katie Proctor,

as his 11-year-old daughter

Rhys Stone

as his 16-year-old son Seb

, Alfie Dobson, Julian Ions and Ross Brewster.

A hard-up delivery driver and his wife struggle to get by in modern-day England.

Ricky and his family have been fighting an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash. An opportunity to wrestle back some independence appears with a shiny new van and the chance to run a franchise as a self-employed delivery driver. It’s hard work, and his wife’s job as a carer is no easier. The family unit is strong but when both are pulled in different directions everything comes to breaking point.

On 21 December 2019, I saw this film in a crowded cinema.

The title of the movie is derived from ‘Sorry we missed you’ pre-printed forms which delivery drivers put in letterboxes of people who are not at home.

Driver Ricky, his wife and his two teenage children: four people who are not bad people, but who live in a society based on exploitation and oppression which drives them towards bad actions.

Ricky becomes self-employed in theory. But in fact, he becomes a worker of a corporation, not called ‘Amazon.com‘ in the film, but similar to it, with fewer rights than usually, working 14 hour days six days a week. And with work speed hazardous for his health. He has to urinate in a bottle, as going to a toilet would cost his boss time and him money. Ricky’s boss cares only about corporate profits, not about workers becoming injured or dead.

Ricky loves his family. But he becomes so overworked that he hits his son and drives him temporarily out of the home.

His wife Abby loves the other three. But to buy his pseudo-self employed white van, Ricky had sold her car. Which meant she was less able to do her zero hours carer job. At a certain point, she threatens to break up the marriage with the husband whom she loves.

Son Seb used to be a good secondary school student. But his overworked parents do not note his interest in visual arts. He sells his only winter coat to buy paint. Later, he steals paint and gets in trouble with police.

Daughter Liza Jane suffers from how economic trouble brings quarrelling to the family. She steals the keys of her father’s van, to stop him from leaving for his pseudo-self employed job.

Are signs of revolt against the capitalist status quo present in the film? There are several.

Early in the film, the boss sacks a driver. Well, officially it is not sacking, as that worker is in theory self-employed. In anger, the sacked worker attacks the boss. That does not solve his problems. It reminds me of the last six lines of a 1907 sonnet by Dutch poetess Henriette Roland Holst, as translated by me:

Sometimes, a wave of anger fills your brain:
for freedom, you advance like a mad bull,
you fall, so wounded by the sharpness in their hand.

Then you lay powerless, of pain so full.
O tortured brother, please do look again:
learn calm strength, which you need, to understand.

These last six lines of the poem are about early twentieth-century Dutch dockworkers sometimes individually lashing out against individual bosses or policemen, as a reaction to exploitation. The poem advises to organize workers’ struggles; instead of reacting emotionally.

Further in the film, there is an allusion to that ‘calm strength’ of workers. An old lady, one of care worker Abby’s clients, tells about her actions supporting the big 1984-1985 miners’ strike.

Another moment of revolt comes when Ricky reproaches Seb with wasting time on graffiti art. Seb replies that his graffiti is certainly not worse than senseless corporate advertisements.

Finally, a moment of revolt comes after criminals have attacked Ricky. Badly injured, he has to go to the hospital. By phone, his boss tells him that will mean big financial penalties for him. Then, Abby takes over the phone and tells the boss what she thinks of his oppressive and exploitative regime.

Another review is here.

9 thoughts on “‘Sorry we missed you’, Loach film review

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