Let’s take a look at a blackly-comic film that wowed audiences at Cannes 2019 with a vivid, no-hold-barred portrait of a family who’ll do anything to survive in an economic tsunami fuelled by self-interest. No, not Parasite, but Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You, a film whose title might represent a note left by awards committees worldwide.
Sorry We Missed You is the story of a family who fall foul of the devilishly detailed rules and regulations which govern the zero-hours workplace. Ricky (Kris Hitchen) and his partner Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) have two kids to feed, and putting bread on the table is increasingly hard. In an entrepreneurial spirit, Ricky sells the family car to buy a van, from which he can deliver packages around Northern Britain. Every move he makes is clocked by the GPS-connected device that regulates the deliveries; a mechanical grass or snitch, it records wasted time. Missed deliveries happen, family emergencies occur, and Ricky finds himself bent out of shape, physically, mentally, as his van moves ever faster and yet his problems mount up.
Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty score regular break-outs hits from their social-realist niche, with I Daniel Blake showcasing a personable rage against the capitalist machine. This time, there’s only resistance, no speeches, no feel-good twists, no burst of sentiment; all of these things might have made Ricky’s story easier to watch, but at the price of having sold out on the key message; that the dehumanisation of the workforce is now ingrained in the legal make-up of our world. Ricky can fight his corner, but the system is built to use his best efforts and spit him out once he’s done. No sick leave, no pensions, no holidays, a boot grinding into a face forever.
So, perhaps such worthy messages are not in fashion right now; they should be. There’s a current willingness to turn away from the present, to look to the past, or to fantasy, or both. Dreamy reveries like Once Upon A Time…in Quentin Tarantino’s Imagination, while deeply pleasing, should be leavened by a dose of a non-alternate reality, and so Sorry We Missed You is worth championing long after the awards glitz has been safely vacuumed. Ideally, it needs a prime-time slot on television to wake up a casual audience to the emotional horrors of poverty.
Although I’d already seen it, this film arrived by disk back in November. As the amateur courier sped away to his next drop-off, I wondered if he had any awareness of what he’d delivered, or would he care? Awards are one way to raise awareness; word of mouth is another, and maybe there’s time for audiences to take a little medicinal injection of modern life being worse than rubbish.
Streaming on Prime from March 1st.