- 06 Nov 19
Ken Loach skewers zero-hour contracts in devastating drama.
The follow-up to Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake is Sorry We Missed You, another film demonstrating that the director’s social and politic conscience is only getting sharper as he ages.
This intimate drama uses the plight of one beautifully observed, utterly real-feeling family to show the horrendous trap that is the gig economy and zero-hour contracts.
Ricky (Kris Hitchen) is a delivery man who prides himself on never having been on the dole. Hardworking and affectionate, he’s also exhausted and constantly stressed about money, which manifests as drinking and a bad temper. Meanwhile, his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) works as a contract in-home carer busing between her multiple appointments until late into the night. Yet she somehow remains a constantly kind and empathetic force in the lives of her patients, Ricky, and their two children – rebellious teen Seb (Rhys Stone) and smart but anxious Liza (Katie Proctor).
Ricky and Abbie’s jobs are time and energy consuming – but also laden with financial traps. If Abbie stays longer with a client who has soiled themselves, she loses money. If Ricky misses a start time, a delivery timeslot, a day, he is heavily fined. When Seb starts acting out, he not only creates emotional tension in the family home, but unwittingly sets off a series of events that begin to spiral Ricky into debt.
The details are brilliantly observed and painful in their undignified accuracy. The plastic bottle Ricky keeps in in the van to urinate in. The man who refuses to take a package for his neighbour, adding to Ricky’s stress. Abbie’s patient with disabilities, who hates being risen early just to be left in a chair all day. Liza’s youthful attempts to manage her family’s emotions. Seb’s ability to transform from vulnerable boy to vicious, nightmare teen in a second.
But particularly affecting are the mounting tension – accumulating in small but oppressive increments – and the textured emotional realism. The performances feel realistic and understated, and the weight of Loach’s vision is always evident: the debasing cruelty of these economies, the devastating impact they have on good people.