Based on the financial fallout of the 2008-2012 crash of the economy and Northern Rock bank ceasing to be, Ken Loach‘s Sorry We Missed You, written by long-term collaborator Paul Laverty, is another brutally real, heartbreaking and educational story of real-life issues for the real people continually hit by a system that isn’t balanced, or fair, for those trying to work their way to something better.
Much like I, Daniel Blake from 2016 – a film that gave everyone a deep look into the bureaucracy within the Employment and Support Allowance system – his film focuses in on a specific story, this time around a family fighting for an income, battling with the ridiculousness of zero-hour contracts, the complete lack of employee protection and the general nature of people being treated like machines.
Ricky, played by Kris Hitchin who gives an exceptional performance as a man desperately on the edge, is a former construction worker who’s temporarily unemployed and actively looking for work. He eventually picks up some as a van driver for a delivery company, which is sold to him as something that’s free and easy – and something that could led to his own franchise – but is, of course, just a job as a delivery driver with little freedom or ownership. His wife Abbie, outstandingly portrayed by Debbie Honeywood in her feature debut, is a contract care nurse, just getting from job to job, as she tries to help a whole host of elderly ‘clients’ on restricted time and more than challenging conditions.
Completing the family is more first-time feature debutants in the shape of their children, Seb (Rhys Stone) and Liza Jane (Katie Proctor), both young actors offering gravitas to the situation but it’s Stone’s Seb who gets the most screen-time with issues including trouble at school and a brewing frustration with his Father. He also has an impressive graffiti talent, something at which first, neither parent has time in their lives to recognise. There is a nice moment with Liza Jane as well, on a day she accompanies her father to work, where she’s reflective and responsible, helping to bring him back a little hope on another tough day.
If this is your first visit to Loach, it’s important to point out that these are very real stories that people go through all the time. I have first-hand knowledge of people working within the care system, like Abbie does, and have often heard how much they want to help the elderly people they visit more than they can, but they’re restricted by being not paid for the travel between visits and also the extreme time restraints on their overall ‘care’ time.
The natural truth behind it these scenarios are disappointingly difficult to quantify. While I’m here writing about films like Loach’s and the honest impact they have on me, I feel nothing but frustration for another government system, or more so lack of regulation, that takes advantage of those who can’t afford to be taken advantage of. Saying that, Sorry We Missed You is not all desperation, as we do see snippets of light through the darkness that include a rare family takeaway giving them joy in moments of struggle.
However, as with most Loach films, it’s the scenes that reflect reality that punch hard and hit home, there’s a stirring Police room scene where the Officer is trying to help Seb realise the errors of his ways, plus an emotional one when Abbie finally cracks and breaks down, when she can’t take any more of the constant pressures against her and her family, and they’re utterly heart-wrenching. And, of course, they should be.
In an increasingly detached society, not locally but definitely in an online division sense, it’s important to feel something and Sorry We Missed You is another vital insight and important reminder of what other people are battling every day – I just always have to ask: How do we even begin to help change it?