thu 14/11/2019

Sorry We Missed You review – Ken Loach's unapologetic assault on the gig economy | reviews, news & interviews

Sorry We Missed You review – Ken Loach's unapologetic assault on the gig economy

Sorry We Missed You review – Ken Loach's unapologetic assault on the gig economy

A Newcastle couple struggles to cope with precarious employment

Family in crisis: Debbie Honeywood, Katie Proctor, Rhys Stone and Kris Hitchen in 'Sorry We Missed You'

If the recent period of British history that has involved recession, austerity, the hostile environment and Brexit is to have chroniclers, who better than Ken Loach and his trusty screenwriter Paul Laverty. Their blend of carefully researched social realism and nail-biting melodrama is angry, shaming, essential. Only the coldest-hearted bureaucrat or corporate heel could leave the cinema dry-eyed.

Having exposed a merciless welfare system in I, Daniel Blake, they now turn their attention to the gig economy, that nefarious conceit that sounds funky yet allows public services to be delivered on the cheap and offers slave labour to business. The action remains in Newcastle, where life for a struggling, working-class family is to become even more precarious. 

Jobbing labourer Ricky (Kris Hitchen) thinks he’s finally about to become his own boss, as a freelance driver with a parcel delivery company. But he fails to see the reality: no contract, no job security, no benefits, all the risk. He’s soon on a gruelling treadmill of 14-hour days, speeding to meet delivery targets, his every step monitored by a hi-tech scanner, a plastic bottle on hand so he can relieve himself without losing time. All the while, warehouse chief Maloney (Ross Brewster) struts about like a drill sergeant, ready to pounce with dubious fines should anyone under-perform. Ricky’s wife Abby (Debbie Honeywood pictured left) is also on the clock, as a conscientious homecare worker trying to achieve all she can for her elderly patients – clean and feed them, give meds, offer comfort and conversation – within the absurdly brief time allocated for each. In a cruel twist, in order to buy a pricey van for his new job, Ricky sells the car that is integral to Abby’s own.

While the couple work themselves into the ground, their home life is falling apart, particularly their parenting of teenage tearaway Seb and sweet, frightened 11-year-old Liza Jane. And still the debt piles up. As Abby laments: “The harder we work, the more hours we do, we just sink further and further into this big hole.” 

This is a natural companion piece to I, Daniel Blake, its characters again skewered by a draconian system – before it was the state, now a corporate business model getting away with murder. But the filmmakers avoid the soap box by allowing Ricky’s personal failings to play a part in the crisis that envelopes his family; he’s got a shocking temper and a lack of common sense; with Maloney’s help he may well drive himself into an early grave. 

This family’s desires are simple enough – to be together in their own home – and their pain heartbreakingly real. As ever, the inexperienced actors are a marvel, the director’s handling of them oozing integrity. While so many filmmakers have gone soft in their dotage, at 83 Loach is as focussed and commanding as ever. It can only be a matter of time before he gets to Brexit.

While so many filmmakers have gone soft in their dotage, at 83 Loach is as focussed and commanding as ever

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.