Sorry We Missed You follows the life of Ricky, a former construction worker who found himself unemployed after the economic crash of 2008, and his wife Abbie, a contract nurse with a demanding schedule of her own.  Sick of their financial predicament, and with a family to support, Ricky takes a job as a delivery driver for a big company only to discover that the job doesn’t offer the flexibility and freedom that he’s sold. The hours are long, the deadlines impossible to hit and the benefits are non-existent.  As he falls further and further into debt, he finds himself stuck in a vicious spiral with no hope of escape.

Ken Loach has made a career of making bitingly savage dramas that still have a thread of dark humour running through them.  From Poor Cow and Kes to Sweet Sixteen, Looking for Eric and I, Daniel Blake, Loach has found himself as a vital voice for the many, the majority of society that doesn’t benefit from the wealth, power or position and, in a lot of cases, struggle to make ends meet.

Sorry We Missed You is another powerful entry in his filmography, led by a solid performance from Kris Hitchen as Ricky and Debbie Honeywood as Abbie.  A master at finding talent instead of bankable names, it’s this that gives that raw edge to all his work. These aren’t amateurs delivering a crisp parody of their subject, they’re intense and focused and, more than anything, they feel real.

As we learn more about Ricky’s family and how hard he and Abbie work.  Her job is equally as stressful as she tries to meet the constraints of caring for the vulnerable and infirm under stricter time limits, increasing personal and financial cost, and mounting pressure.  Together, they’re failing at the work-life balance through no real fault of their own and trying to remain the loving family that they obviously are supposed to be. 

A bleak film throughout and a film that deserves multiple viewings, Sorry We Missed You starts with hope that is slowly rotted away by circumstance, the viewer can’t help but be angered by what we have taken for granted.  The delivery drivers for these big companies are being worked as hard as they are because we, the consumer, want our goods as quickly as possible, no matter the impact. Late or misplaced delivery is enough to annoy us, yet we don’t consider what is happening behind the scenes: the lack of compassion, the punishing schedule, long hours and the absence of basic humanity in the workplace.

It’s not all gloomy, though, as Paul Laverty’s script gives us a close-knit family unit, a brother and sister (played by Rhys Stone and Katie Procter) who have a wonderful bond.  Sadly, family bonds are truly tested by the events that surround the Turner family, no matter how much they love each other, especially as Seb, the eldest child, rebels against authority as he seeks his own identity.  This is a family, though, that is fighting to stay together, that clearly love each other, despite their differences and it takes a single, unexpected act to show how far they’ve drifted apart.

Shot around Newcastle and Gateshead, cinematographer Robbie Ryan captures both the freedom of the landscape and the restrictive world of the warehouse and the white van.  His choice of filming style exposes the juxtaposition of family life, the caring nature of Abbie and the hostile world in which Ricky finds himself as their lives wear them down.  It’s a masterclass in cinematography that would stand examination on its own.

The prevalence of the “gig economy” (a name which makes it sound like a jolly experience) and the sheer pressures placed upon those who just want to work and find themselves trapped in this kind of job are brought to life in Sorry We Missed You.  The aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis is still being felt today, making this film as important as Loach’s previous work.

A vitally important film with a central cast in Ricky and Abbie that will hopefully see more exposure and a script that delivers a bleak critique of the modern workforce, Sorry We Missed You is a must-see film for the broadest audience possible.

The feature commentary with Ken Loach and Paul Laverty doesn’t just offer an insight into the making of the film, but the subject matter itself.  It’s a rare thing in DVD commentaries, a commentary that is as interesting as the film itself.

Dir: Ken Loach

Scr: Paul Laverty

Cast: Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor

Prd: Rebecca O’Brien

DOP: Robbie Ryan

Country: United Kingdom

Year: 2019

Runtime: 100 mins

Sorry We Missed You is available on Digital on 5th March 2020 and on DVD on 9th March 2020 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.