Sorry We Missed You [2019]: Cannes review – Ken Loach and selfdeprivation of the working class

You do not work for us, you work with us … you are master of your own destiny, “says the voice of Maloney (Ross Brewster), storage manager at the opening of the movie “Sorry We Missed You”, directed by Ken Loach. And as we are already accustomed to the British filmmakers career, what is there in front of us is a hundred minutes of social drama in which the figure of the working class, this time the family man Ricky, will go through all nine circles of capitalist hell, from dubious bureaucratic peripheries, through the apathetic faces of the bourgeoisie to self-exploitation for the purpose of pure survival.

As we are accustomed to Loach, the film script is signed by his longtime partner, Paul Laverty, and in the main roles of the film, there are a number of new, unknown faces, members of the middle class,  and to most of them, this is the first acting role in a life. The inspiration for the film comes from, as Loach claims at a press conference in Cannes, from his personal encounter with a single Amazon service provider and from a growing number of newspaper articles in the past year and a half from the British newspapers about the daunting conditions in which self-employed van dealers are working.

The return to New Castle

Like Loach’s previous work “I, Daniel Blake”, “Sorry We Missed You” is located in New Castle, a once-significant industrial environment that is undergoing a difficult transition today because of the insufficient number of jobs available to the working class, especially those older than 40 years. Unlike previous works, a 52-year-old Loach film career, focusing on an individual, this time in the centre of the film is a four-member family Turner.

The head of the family, father Ricky (Kris Hitchen) has gone through a series of petty jobs and unhappy career failures always trying to feed his close ones. Ricky gets the chance to be the master of his fate and becomes an independent, self-serving driver for the most successful warehouse in New Castle. On this occasion, in the style of Bicycle Thieves, he needs to sell a car that his wife Abbie, a home nurse, uses for the job so he can pay the deposit for a van that should bring him a fortune. Naturally, the new job means that Ricky will rarely be at home, and as Abbie now has to carry out her daily routes on foot or by buses, which then again means that their rebellious teen son Seb (Rhya Stone) and elementary school daughter Lisa Jane (Katie Proctor) are staying alone at home.

Perfectly apathetic business environment

As if the number of working hours in the Turner family is not a good recipe for disaster, there is also a very capitalistic-enslavement way of doing things in the warehouse where Ricky works. Maloney has secured the position of the best in the region for his warehouse, by his strict “business ethics” (or perhaps a lack of the same) where he gives workers no other opportunity – or they are the best and perform deliveries flawlessly or receive fines, get fined for late deliveries, by getting harder and less profitable route.

Maloney justifies all of his actions, in no other way than by relying on technology and poorly written laws that allow the exploitation of self-employed. Each of the deliverers carries with it a GPS device that counts the time it takes for each delivery to be done. GPS knows the status of each package and the location of the driver at any time, and besides all these smart technologies built into the device, somehow there is no free time for occasional eating or going to the bathroom.

Family sufferings and moments of happiness

Loach provides us with detailed insight into this workable business model of supplier companies, but there is more than that. Everyday life and social struggles of each family member receive equal attention, from the difficult patients with whom Abbie must work for a minimum, through Seb’s self-exploration in a depressing working class environment, to the Lisa Janes dreams of happier days with family. Yet what works best in a movie is at moments where Turners manage to spend time together. To bring us closer to the characters, Loach gives us details from their everyday life, dinnertimes or attempts to turn working weekends into quality shared moments (for example, where Lisa Jane helps Ricky with deliveries).

Of course, these moments are further supported by innocents, rhetoric, and emotions driven by actors. How Loach chronologically makes his films and feeds the actors only to the most important pieces of the script, almost all emotional reactions in the film are sincere. The best example of this is a great scene at the hospital where actress Debby Honeywood improvises the monologue and gives an incredible feeling of reality to her character.

“Sorry, We Missed You” is another one of the great Loach movies. An authentic, relevant and in detail explored topic, the realism of character both through the script and through the acting and a good balance between hard, dramatic and cordial, comedic moments make this film certainly one of the more valuable candidates for this year’s BAFTA Awards.