Not many directors have spent their careers highlighting the need for social reform in the same way as Ken Loach. His latest film, Sorry We Missed You, is no exception. It shines a stark light on the inhumanity of the gig economy and the devastating effect it has on ordinary working people’s lives.
The strong cast, including Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor, draws the audience into a world where making ends meet comes at a terrible price. The subtle relationships between each character force you to care as they are gradually torn apart by modern slavery masquerading as ‘self-employment’.
“It’s your choice,” says the heart of stone depot manager Maloney (expertly portrayed by Ross Brewster) at the beginning of the film. The true irony of this statement is cruelly played out as the narrative unfolds, revealing the helplessness of the family’s situation. The love between all the family members is palpable and Hitchen’s poignant and extraordinary portrayal of Ricky carries you through the story, willing him to make good against impossible odds.
Honeywood is equally touching as Abbie whose zero hours job as a carer deprives her of the ability to mother her own children. It also highlights how the care system prevents her from giving the personal service her vulnerable clients so desperately need. And both kids give compelling performances – Seb as the angry teenager, and daughter Lisa Jane who is brilliantly played by Proctor, exhibiting a subtlety and emotional maturity beyond her years.
Paul Laverty’s script is superb with believable and hard-hitting dialogue. His writing compliments Loach’s style of direction perfectly as he encourages his actors to push beyond the words on the page and immerse themselves in the desperate situation faced by each of the characters (who could be any one of us). The result is both explosive and emotionally wrought, but with a warm, beating heart at the centre.
The film is quite rightly a damning indictment of slave labour and exposes the physical, emotional and societal cost of the gig economy. As I watched I began to fully understand how workers’ rights have been eroded in the past few decades and couldn’t help but worry how much worse they could become post-Brexit. As it stands, 4.7 million people in the UK are trapped in working poverty, forced to use food banks to plug the hole that poorly paid full-time employment leaves them in. As the fifth richest country in the world, this is scandalous and it is clear that things have to change.
Sorry We Missed You is a heart-breaking film which makes for essential viewing. It forces you to face the cold hard reality that one in six workers in the UK are attempting to survive in positions without rights and with no way out of zero hours instability. As an exposé of the dark underbelly of precarious employment, it is probably the most important film of the year and, as the general election approaches, it should be mandatory viewing.
Images courtesy of Entertainment One
Sorry We Missed You is showing in selected cinemas.
To read Northern Soul’s interview with Kris Hitchen, click here.