MIFF Review: Sorry We Missed You

 
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Screening at MIFF direct from this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Ken Loach’s follow-up film to his Palme D’Or winning I, Daniel Blake, comes Sorry We Missed You; a stark depiction of the struggles of working people. 

Set right after the 2008 financial crisis, the film’s protagonist Ricky (Kris Hitchen) loses his job in construction and his mortgage, finding himself bouncing across different jobs and rental homes.

He is convinced by his friend to work for a delivery company as a driver, a ‘white van man’, in what seems like a sweet deal with potential to get himself and his family back on track. But there’s a catch, he joins the company as an ‘independent contractor,’ forced to hire a van from the company at an exorbitant rate or buy one on his own dime. 

The only way to afford it is to sell his wife Abbie’s (Debbie Honeywood), car, leaving her with no choice but to take the bus to her job as a contract nurse and in-home carer. This decision sees her travel all over town for long hours with no time for her kids; willful teenager,  Seb (Rhys Stone) and his intelligent younger sister Liza Jane (Katie Proctor).

His boss, self-proclaimed king of the nasties, Maloney (Ross Brewster) offers him no respite, and when the long hours start to take a toll on his family, and he inevitably needs time off and his debts continue to pile up, it becomes clear that there is no way out.

Like Loach’s previous film, it’s a relentless ride and an honest and moving portrait of a family with no way out of a desolate situation.  

The film has already drawn comparisons to Vittorio de Sica's 1948 classic Ladri di Biciclette, or Bicycle Thieves - it walks in the shadow of the Sica’s tradition, as a study of the poverty that lies at the heart of modern Britain.

It also gently recalls Boots Riley’s debut film Sorry To Bother You, though Sorry We Missed You is more restrained and tends to wander down the realist path.

Sorry We Missed You is a film without a distinctive style, no killer soundtrack or anything slightly off-centre to distract from the story - which is grim at its most lighthearted. 

This bare-bones approach means that the cast has room to shine, which it does, particularly Hitchen in his portrayal of a hardworking, loving father who despite it all, can’t beat the system.

The film is set against a barren political landscape, but it’s our political landscape -  there is no fantasy here. Ricky’s world of zero-hour contracts, economic slavery, dehumanising jobs - with no time for bathroom breaks whilst driving so he’s forced to piss in a bottle - is one that will be familiar to any viewer who’s heard the horror stories about working practices of some of the world’s biggest companies. 

And this is the cost, Loach says, in this sharp critique of not just modern Britain, but contemporary working class culture.  

So sit up, and pay attention.

7/10

Sorry We Missed You is now showing at Melbourne International Film Festival 2019. Session times and ticketing info can be found here.