A common theme in cinema is depicting the socioeconomic factors of a group of people. People who make decisions that they can’t unmake. But there’s a specificity in co-writer and director Ken Loach’s depictions of those factors. And that specificity sets him apart from other directors within current cinematic landscape. He could have just focused on Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen), a man delivering parcels to hostile customers. But he also focuses on Ricky’s son Seb (Rhys Stone). He has the potential to be the next Keith Haring had Thatcher not cut arts funding. There’s also Ricky’s wife Abbi (Debbie Honeywood), checking on her kids despite her own work.
Other critics have called Sorry We Missed You a companion piece to I, Daniel Blake, which is still true. Daniel is about the cracks within the British benefits system. Meanwhile, this show how people with jobs still have to choose one thing over another because of limited resources. Those lack of resources show how that limits and affects these peoples’ mental states. I keep returning to Seb, who has to rationalize his art to Ricky and Abbi. He also has to sell a jacket to buy his spray cans. This angers his parents who prefer their child to have proper clothing.
Loach balances work scenes with family scenes and in doing so, depicts peripheral systems and how oppressive they can be. There’s Ricky who wears a Manchester United sweater. Even a sweater feels like an act of rebellion against two things. One, his company’s uniform policy and two, against his new city of Newcastle. There’s Abbi’s work as a care worker. Her clients are nice enough but her quota limits what she can do. Those limits has her getting into loud, irate phone calls with bosses we never see. Then there’s the education system which is as nice as they can be in their letters. But they’re insufficient in managing children with violent behavior or have no means of figuring out why that behavior manifests.
Loach also explores our prejudices against working class people. The stereotype of working class anger have its share of depictions here, but there are also moments of empathy. Sometimes Ricky, Abbi, and Seb shout at each other. But at other times they pick up details during other moments when each member of the family act out. These are characters doing their best to understand the other side of the arguments they’re in. The fourth family member is young Liza Jane (Katie Proctor). Her anxiety about her family situation also makes her act out. But work, unfortunately, exists to sustain this family. This ironically means that they have to put work first over family and their own mental states. Loach’s attention to detail reminds us of the universality of proletarian struggle.
Sorry We Missed You‘s website informs audiences about the film, as well as about the Impact Campaign. Fighting for working class rights is an individual struggle. The site mostly caters to British resources to unionize. But I hope it inspires people everywhere who are ready to band together. TIFF is screening the film. For more information, specifically about their screenings with subtitles for those who can’t understand regional English, click here.