Ken Loach’s follow-up to the heartrending I, Daniel Blake covers similar ground, dramatizing the way “the system” of commerce and government in the 21st century devalues and undermines working-class people. Sorry We Missed You was filmed in Newcastle, England but could be transposed to any community in the so-called civilized world.
Kris Hitchen plays an ordinary guy who’s done all kinds of work but hasn’t dealt with the modern gig economy until now. As he applies for a position with a package delivery firm he will not be a traditional employee. In fact, he is taking on enormous financial responsibility (by leasing a van) and a punishing schedule. His wife (Debbie Honeywood) endures a similar situation as a caregiver who has no control over her hours or the quality of care she dispenses from day to day. The couple is raising two kids, one of whom is a rebellious teenager who can’t be reasoned with. How are people like this expected to survive and achieve even a small measure of happiness?
A film tackling this subject matter could be thankless and grim but Loach and his longtime screenwriter Paul Laverty reach past that through the compassion they show for their characters. The result is that we care about them, too, even as we are suffused with outrage and frustration.
Loach gets the lion’s share of credit for his distinctive films but credit should properly be shared with Laverty. The genius of their work is that it’s heartbreakingly real but never preachy or pedantic. If I had to sum up Sorry We Missed You I would choose another adjective instead: devastating.