(Criterion/kanopy/VOD) Ken Loach’s SORRY WE MISSED YOU is a slow-motion car crash of a financial horror story about a family trying to get by while giving all of their spare time to low-wage gig jobs. The husband Ricky (Kris Hitchen) has just sold his wife Abbie’s (Debbie Honeywood) car to purchase a delivery van in order to delivery Amazon packages and the like around the U.K., and Abbie is now forced to bus around to her nursing jobs. Both of them are out of the house for twelve hours a day, which results in their teenage son’s troublemaking escalating and their young daughter being the one waking her mom and dad up when they fall asleep in front of the television. Bills mount up, fees spiral out of control, and it looks like there’s no way out.
While their debt and stress casts a pall over the film, Paul Laverty’s (who penned Loach’s prior film I, DANIEL BLAKE) script inserts enough kind and sweet moments, such as one afternoon when Ricky takes his daughter along delivering packages, and there’s a poignant scene between Abbie and one of her ‘clients’ where they share family photos. The client pointedly shows off pictures of her in her old union job.
That one scene, where Abbie’s client talks about her old union job as ‘the good times’, is the only explicit commentary that Laverty and Loach insert, but ultimately the entire film is a plea for a return to the age of unionization and workers’ rights. They make sure to hammer home the simple fact that the gig economy is a return to pre-union times: a return to the company store, a return to being nickeled-and-dimed, a return to job inequality, a return to inexistent worker protection.
Near the end of the film, the daughter yells “I just want to go back to the way things were before!” and, while she’s too young to realize that the ‘before’ wasn’t necessary significantly better, she realizes it’s far better than the stressed-out hell everyone is dealing with now. She deserves better. We as a society deserve better than this.