SORRY WE MISSED YOU (2020)
Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor, Ross Brewster, Mark Burns, Alfie Dobson, Harriet Ghost, Linda E Greenwood, Charlie Richmond
Directed by Ken Loach
For over fifty years British filmmaker Ken Loach has continuously challenged movie audiences to rise up and get passionate about the struggles of the working class. His poignant films are both genuine and moving and now the 83-year old returns with a heartfelt and provoking drama that feels like a companion piece to 2017’s “I, Daniel Blake.” In “Sorry We Missed You” humanity battles urgency as one family fights to keep it together while being one paycheck away from homelessness. The film explores the difficulty of keeping the family unit intact under financial duress.
During the 2008 financial crisis, the Turner family lost their home. They’ve been through some rough times but have managed to stay together. Family matriarch Abby (Debbie Honeywood) works as home-health nurse visiting several elderly patients daily while kids Liza Jane (Katie Proctor) and her 15-year old brother Seb (Rhys Stone) attend school. Meanwhile husband and father Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen), a former construction worker, is about to start a new job as a parcel delivery driver.
One gets the feeling that Ricky who dreams of one day being his own boss is being taken for a ride as his new employer (Ross Brewster) explains “You sign up with us you become an owner-driver franchisee” where “You don’t work for us, you work with us.” Sounds promising but the job delivering parcels requires you to either rent a van from the company or provide your own.
Ricky doesn’t want to see his wages go back the company for renting a vehicle so he convinces Abby to sell her car so that he can purchase a used van. That means Abby will have to use the bus to visit her patients which results in less time at home to spend with the kids. She’s not happy about it but goes along with her husband’s plan.
Soon Seb, an aspiring graffiti artist, begins to skip school while younger sister Liza Jane takes over some of her mom’s duties including making sure that Seb makes it to class. Anyone with two working parents can relate to this dynamic on some level as roles within the family unit begin to change. Abby is constantly on the phone with her kids trying to keep the family organized between clients while Ricky just concentrates on his new job as he loses touch with his wife and kids.
There are moments of levity as when Liza accompanies her dad on his route. He gets attacked by a homeowner’s dog who tries to take a bite out of his rear end while leaving a package, so she leaves the homeowner a note that reads “You owe my dad a new pair of boxers.” It’s great to see the father-daughter spending time together but when someone complains about her accompanying her dad, Ricky is told by his boss that he’s not allowed to have passengers even though it’s his van. So much for being the master of your own destiny as an owner-franchisee.
The story for “Sorry We Missed You” came from the experience Loach had shooting his last film “I, Daniel Blake.” The filmmaker was surprised to discover that many people at a local foodbank weren’t jobless or homeless, they were what many consider the working poor. You may have a roof over your head and a steady job but it’s still not enough to make ends meet.
The performances in the film are so authentic that it feels like you’re watching a documentary. Most of the principal cast had limited if any acting experience and Loach shot in sequence to let the actors learn the fate of their characters as they went along.
While “Sorry We Missed You” takes place in Newcastle upon Tyne, the story by longtime Loach collaborator Paul Laverty should resonate with people around the globe. It offers no solution to what feels like a vicious trap, but it raises awareness to the plight of the blue collar family and while that may be solace to some, knowing that they are not alone, it can also be a form of hope as we try to avoid the missteps taken by the Turner family.