Political Film Review #617


Director Ken Loach has long demonstrated genius for portraying the plight of the working class. In Sorry We Missed You he traces the impact of nonunionization of workers on the family of Ricky (played by Kris Hitchey) and Abby (Debbie Honeywood) and their children, Sebastian (Rhys Stone) and Liza (Katie Proctor). Manchester-born Ricky, drifting from one lousy job to another in London, one day discovers what might be employment that will lift him out of near poverty. Once he owned a home but the financial collapse of 2008/09 meant eviction for mortgage nonpayment. The new job promises that he will be able to buy a home in two years and never again have to cope with landlords who have been ousting the family for various reasons (possibly gentrification?). He will deliver packages ordered by customers from the Internet soon after they arrive in a warehouse in London. But Maloney (Ross Brewster), the coordinator at the warehouse, explains that Ricky is to be an independent contractor, not an employee, and he must either buy his delivery van or pay exorbitant rental fees. He is also subject to various penalties for nondelivery, illegal parking on crowded streets, and the security of the minicomputer device that serves as his GPS and signature pad. Because his 11-year-old daughter Liza helps him one Saturday, Maloney informs him that he has broken yet another unexpected rule. To buy the costly van, however, he asks his wife Abby to sell her car, which she needs to commute between clients in her contractor role in order to provide personal care for homebound seniors, one of whom shows photographs of the days when unions were able to get decent working conditions for their workers. While Abby then spends hours commuting, even working three nights weekly, Ricky embarks on a career of 12-hour days, 6 days per week. They leave their children without parental contact during critical years of their lives, the first inkling about the “sorry we missed you” plot. One mishap after another follows in what gradually becomes a story that falls into noir genre: One day Seb, his 16-year-old son, is expelled from school; later, he is caught shoplifting. On another day, Ricky is brutally attacked while opening his van one day, then goes to the hospital and must wait hours before a full diagnosis. For the loss of business, he is fined beyond anything he can afford. Meanwhile Abby is a model of compassion to her clients and family. One morning, Ricky gets up at 6, leaves a message on a “Sorry We Missed You” delivery note, and gets into his van. His family tries to stop him, but he drives away with one eye damaged, nearly in tears. The film ends before filmviewers learn whether he has actually written a suicide note. The Political Film Society has nominated Sorry We Missed You as best film exposé and best film on human rights of 2020.

As a footnote, Amazon is now experimenting with the use of drones to deliver packages. Self-driving vehicles may someday be driven by robots. An estimated one-third of all jobs may be abolished thereby. What jobs will be left for those not going to college, where they otherwise might begin a middle class life drowning in debt?  MH   

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