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Sorry We Missed You (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 11, 2020


Starring Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor, Rob Brewster, Charlie Richmond, Julian Ions, Sheila Dunkerley, Maxie Peters, Christopher John Slater, Heather Wood, Alberto Dumba, Natalia Stonebanks, Jordan Colard, Dave Turner, Stephen Clegg, Darren Jones, Nikki Marshall, Mike Milligan, Grace Brown, Steve Hogg and Mary Shearer.

Screenplay by Paul Laverty.

Directed by Ken Loach.

Distributed by Zeitgeist Films. 110 minutes. Not Rated.

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.”

The world was a very different place when Tennessee Ernie Ford first sang those words in 1955, but one thing has not changed. Hard work is not necessarily rewarded, and the workers are often stuck on a treadmill which is going faster and faster until their lives just spin out.

Of course, it’s not now in the coal mines (well, sometimes it is), but it is being exacerbated by the current “gig economy” where companies sign up “contractors” to do work. This calls for long hours, no benefits, no set wage, fees and penalties, all couched in some happy talk to make it seem like the worker is becoming a franchisee and a business owner, in charge of their own destiny.

“You don’t work for us, you work with us,” Rickey Turner (Kris Hitchen) is promised in the opening scene.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It is a ponzi scheme, an Amway for the new millennium. But the family man is desperate to have a job which will take care of his family, so he jumps at the chance.

His wife Abby (Debbie Honeywood) is a gig worker, too, a home health care worker who cares for her patients much more than she is paid to. They both work 12-16 hours a day, six days a week. They get a flat fee for each stop. They do not get paid for stops which go long, travel time, expenses, breaks, lunch, or even dinner as most shifts last into the night. He’s even given a bottle to pee in, because bathroom breaks would take up too much time.

In the meantime, their teenaged son is acting up because he feels ignored, and the 12-year-old daughter is essentially running the household because her parents are so exhausted when they get home.

British director Ken Loach has spent 50 years documenting the lives of the most vulnerable members in society. Now in his 80s he shows no sign of stopping, and Sorry We Missed You, a loose companion piece to his last film 2016’s I, Daniel Blake shows that his skills as a filmmaker who champions the common man are still sharp as ever.

Sorry We Missed You takes on near tragic dimensions as these two people and hard workers are slowly ground down by circumstance, red tape and a system that is rigged against them. The harder they work, the more they give of themselves, the further their dream of financial self-sufficiency recedes from them. They are not looking to become rich, just secure, but that financial aspiration quickly shows itself to be a mirage.

They can’t afford to get sick. They can’t afford to take time off. They can’t afford to go bail their son out of jail due to a stupid high school stunt. And God forbid that Rickey break his “precisor,” the hand-held routing device which costs a cool grand to replace.

Some critics have complained that Sorry We Missed You sets Rickey and Abby up to knock them down, tossing every and any obstacle it can in their path. Perhaps this is even somewhat true, however life has a way of throwing up roadblocks and this poor family’s troubles feel very real to me.

Sorry We Missed You is an economic calamity and a cautionary tale for a world where most people are just one paycheck away from complete financial ruin. More to the point, it is a sympathetic and surprisingly affecting tale of people trying to maintain their decency even as the world is on their shoulders. If this can happen to these nice, well-meaning people, it can happen to any of us.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: March 13, 2020.

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