Sorry We Missed You

 

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Another deeply concerned look at life in Britain today from Ken Loach and Paul Laverty.

 
Sorry We Missed You

Debbie Honeywood (left)

 

I admit to having approached this work with some trepidation. When I, Daniel Blake appeared in 2016 there were rumours that it might be Ken Loach's last film and, since it proved to be one of his very best, the news that at 83 he was after all offering us another piece gave one pause. That was because there was the risk that it could turn out to be a disappointing anticlimax. It is, therefore, all the more pleasing to be able to report that Sorry We Missed You, again written by Paul Laverty, is a great success.

 

In many respects we have here a film that bears all the hallmarks that we associate with Ken Loach. Set in Newcastle, it is a study of working class life dealing with contemporary social issues and played quite admirably by a cast of unknowns. Loach and Laverty are exposing in this work what the gig economy really means. They do so by inviting us to share the lives of Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen), his wife Abby (Debbie Honeywood) and their two children, the teenage Seb (Rhys Stone) and 11-year-old Liza Jane (Katie Proctor). As the film opens, Ricky is putting his hopes in fresh work as a delivery driver in order to better the lot of his family. The set-up is one in which he provides services for a company instead of being an employee with fixed hours. However, the ruthless rules and demands imposed are beyond anything Ricky had anticipated and, with Abby employed as a dedicated carer linked to the NHS, both parents are subject to exhausting work requirements that give them too little time at home. This becomes an even more acute issue when the rebellious son gets into trouble.

 

Beautifully made with Robbie Ryan as the photographer and spot on editing by Jonathan Morris, Sorry We Missed You is, I feel, the nearest that Loach has come to making a film reminiscent of the work of my favourite director, Japan's Ozu Yasujiro. Like Ozu's family pieces, this film features characters who feel intensely real and who are observed in their day-to-day existence. The first half in particular rivets us through the acute portrayal of their daily lives without the need for anything that suggests a plot as such and, in another stroke that reminds one of Ozu, we have in Abby a wholly believable unsentimental portrait of a truly good woman.

 

If this comparison underlines the qualities of Sorry We Missed You, it also brings out the film's minor weaknesses. The unexpected incident that brings the film to its climax feels wholly real, but one or two plot points in the second half come over as slightly rigged in a way that the Japanese master would have avoided. However, this is far from being a major flaw and in any case the film finds a last scene that is entirely apt. Despite its desperate seriousness, Sorry We Missed You does contain welcome moments of characteristic Loach humour but, even so, it lacks something of the more popular appeal that was present in I, Daniel Blake without damaging its integrity. This is not said as a further criticism but as a tribute to Loach and Laverty for not flinching from the fact that this film goes beyond commenting on the gig economy to bring out the lack of hope that today's society offers to working class families. The only positive aspect to be found in this film lies in the humanity of the characters and that extends beyond the members of the Turner family to the many subsidiary figures who, admirably cast, show that human warmth still exists in the world.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor, Ross Brewster, Charlie Richmond, Julian Ions, Sheila Dunkeley, Maxie Peters, Christopher John Slater, Heather Wood, Alberto Dumba.

 

Dir Ken Loach, Pro Rebecca O'Brien, Screenplay Paul Laverty, Ph Robbie Ryan, Pro Des Fergus Clegg, Ed Jonathan Morris, Music George Fenton, Costumes Joanne Slater.

 

Sixteen Films/Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch/BFI/BBC Films/Le Pacte-Entertainment One.
101 mins. UK/France/Belgium. 2019. Rel: 1 November 2019. Cert. 15.