Emerging into the sunlight, I’m thankful to escape a grim world of zero-hours contracts, with no holidays or sick pay.
I’d had just watched Ken Loach’s latest work, Sorry We Missed You, which tells the story of a parcel delivery man trying his best to survive in the gig economy but who is desperately drowning in a sea of economic worries.
Ricky Turner, played by Kris Hitchen, is told by Maloney (Ross Brewster), the hard-nosed delivery-depot boss in Sorry We Missed You. “You come on board. We call it on-boarding. You don’t work for us – you work with us.” A prime example of the corrupt language that is part and parcel of the gig economy where basic workers’ rights are absent.
‘His latest work is very much a part of the rich social realism seam that Loach has diligently ploughed since he launched his career’
Ricky’s wife, Abby (Debbie Honeywood) also has her own pressures as an agency care-worker, going endlessly between too-short appointments with the elderly and infirm, trying to live up to her golden rule: “Treat them like your mam.” The film also show the effects of the couple’s precarious lives on their two children; son Seb (Rhys Stone) and Liza Jane (Katie Proctor).
There are moments of tenderness and humour amidst the grimness of the story which is set in Newcastle. Daughter Lisa accompanies her dad during a delivery run. Her innocence is highlighted when she asks her dad can they do it again as they sit together eating sandwiches. We also have football banter as Manchester United fan Ricky goes head to head with a Newcastle supporter over the respective fortunes of their teams.
Eighty-three-old Loach is still producing cinema which delivers a powerful punch.
Some critics have described Sorry We Missed You as a lesser companion piece to Loach’s excellent I, Daniel Blake. I disagree. His latest work is very much a part of the rich social realism seam that Loach has diligently ploughed since he launched his career. These include Kes, Riff-Raff, My Name is Joe, Cathy Come Home and Raining Stones.
I’m a big fan of what Loach and script writer Paul Laverty have achieved in Sorry We Missed You but at times I longed for a trade union character who could talk about the need to organise.
The film ends with exhausted Ricky on the road to nowhere. Loach has constantly shown us the barbarism of an economic system based on profit and exploitation.
But perhaps the challenge is for younger directors, who admire Loach’s work, is to show us what an alternative might look like?