Starring Kris Hitchen. Rated 14A
The struggle continues. In fact, now that the workers own the means of production—a.k.a. the gig economy—the struggle is a damn sight worse.
For Ken Loach, now 82 but still tirelessly documenting the underclass, indentured servitude is a subject that never gets old, since it constantly assumes new forms. In Sorry We Missed You, named for the Amazonian wasteland of a fictional package-delivery service, Loach and frequent writing partner Paul Laverty look at the intertwined effects of income inequality and family dysfunction.
When we meet Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen), he’s a Newcastle jack-of-all-trades who signs on to be a “master of your own destiny”, according to a baldheaded brute of a boss who later declares himself “the patron saint of nasty bastards”.
Ricky’s wife, Abbie (Debbie Honeywood, impressive in her first role), is a home-care nurse—sorry, “independent contractor”—who views and cleans up the effluvia of a crushing system on a daily basis. She has to sell her car and take the bus to far-flung “clients” so Ricky can make the down payment on a transit van instead of renting from the company.
Their daughter’s a sweet kid, but the older son’s a brooding tag artist currently skipping school and stumbling towards an increasingly bleak future. Seeing his once-proud father owe his soul to the company store doesn’t help. Indeed, Ricky finds it a bewildering task to “hit the numbers” required in a system that turns people into machines. Parking tickets, broken lifts, violent thieves, the odd guard dog, and serious sleep deprivation are among the true costs of the gig. Meanwhile, Abbie has to rub camphor under her nose before visiting some of her smellier old-timers, although she does enjoy their memories of better days and “love’s young dream”.
These workers, young or retired, don’t so much want to lose their chains as they are hoping to regain the ties that used to bind. The film ends, just a bit heavy-handedly, with Ricky driving the long road to nowhere. Loach only hints at the depredations coming their way when Brexit really kicks in. That’ll be his next, one expects.