SORRY WE MISSED YOU, UK, 2019. StarringKris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor, Ross Brewster. Directed by Ken Loach. 101 minutes. Rated MA (Strong Coarse language)
Perhaps it is sufficient to say that this is a Ken Loach film. And to add, this is a very fine Ken Loach film (directed when he was in his early 80s).
Ken Loach has immersed his audiences for over 50 years in the life of working-class Britons, mostly in England, sometimes in Scotland, occasionally in United States and Latin America. He has certainly been the champion of the working class from films, almost documentary -like, like Cathy Come Home and Kes in the 1960s and, finding a consistent pace in the early 1990s, a striking film almost every two years, winning the Palme D’Or in Cannes twice, for his Irish Civil War drama, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and then for I, Daniel Blake. (He has also won the most awards for a directorfrom Catholic and ecumenical juries around the world.)
Tribute should also be given to his writer, Paul Laverty, who has written all the screenplays for Loach’s film since 1996. (Laverty trained to be a priest at the Scots College in Rome for several years but did not continue but has had what one might call a social justice ministry in writing the screenplays for the Loach films).
This time we are in Newcastle-upon-tyne, introduced to Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen), a driver, anxious to make ends meet, to buy a home for his family instead of renting, who becomes part of the franchise of seemingly-independent drivers in a highly organised co-op for parcel delivery. While it sounds good, he has to buy his own van, sell his wife’s car to cover the deposit, submit himself to a highly demanding regime, timetable, supervision, regulations that require him to find substitute drivers if he has family troubles – and, there are plenty with his 16-year-old son, Seb (Rhys Stone), who is skipping school, painting graffiti, sullen at home. His wife, Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), is admirable, a home carer who is wonderful with the elderly. There is also a young daughter at home.
In the early part of the film, we travel in the van, encounter all kinds of people receiving their packages, some gruff, some genial, some demanding… We also travel in the bus with Abbie, encountering quite a number of home shut-ins who require patient attention, feeding, cleaning…
There is one joyous day when the daughter accompanies her father delivering the parcels, even a kindly lady giving her some change to buy some lollies. But, Ricky is then informed that this is against the rules and someone has complained. In fact, the rules become more and more severe, relentless, the demanding letter of the law. The company boss calls himself the patron of “nasty bastards” and has an extremely tin ear for any appeals of compassion over his unyielding regime rules.
The narrative builds to some moments of high tension, the son suspended and arrested for shoplifting, Ricky assaulted on the Road, Abbie becoming more desperate, loving her husband and trying to mediate in the family.
Loach and Laverty tell their story, straightforwardly but with higher dramatic tension in day-to-day lives, inviting the audience to share the life of the family, experience the problems, share the desperation.
Icon Released December 26th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.