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Review: Sorry We Missed You – “Compellingly earnest”

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Celebrated British director Ken Loach returns to tackle another ill of British society, this time zero-hour contracts. The film begins happily enough, admitting that when they work, they work, but when they don’t, it can cause everything to come crashing down. Set in present-day Newcastle, the film follows parents Ricky and Abby Turner whose work and family pulls them against each other.

Ken Loach draws from many interviews and accounts from everyday people across the country about the effect the gig economy is having on those who need a stable income. This is where the film’s strengths lie, in the everyday work of Ricky and Abby. Unfortunately, the authenticity is lost when the didactic speeches start and the moral is put front and centre robbing the performances of their subtlety.

Ricky (Kris Hitchen) begins a new job at a parcel delivery service– the unimaginatively named PDF or Parcels Delivered Fast. In an opening scene echoing ‘I, Daniel Blake’ Ricky explains his job history as a builder and then a landscape gardener has been mostly positive but is now seeking to work for himself. PDF allures him with the freedom to work when he wants on a zero-hour contract, effectively being ‘self-employed’ promises the burly branch manager Maloney (Ross Brewster).

Meanwhile, Ricky’s wife Abby (Debby Honeywood) works as a caregiver on a similar contract, paid for each patient she visits. Taking her across the city to vulnerable but not always appreciative patients. It’s a demanding role, made more difficult when she gives up her car so Ricky can buy his own van to use for his deliveries. Ricky takes a calculated risk on everything going well, with the goal to save up and buy their own home – an option they were robbed of in the 2008 financial crash.

The demands of work also puts pressure on their ability to keep an eye on their kids Seb and Lisa. Seb (Rhys Jones) embodies all the stereotypical cliches of a rebellious teenager, skipping school to embrace a passion for street art instead. Seb gets some semblance of a character when he looks out for a friend who plans to run away from her care home and the scenes he shares with Lisa (Katie Proctor). Ricky seeks time off to connect with his family but finds he’ll be sanctioned if he does.

Kris Hitchen and Debby Honeywood are compellingly earnest in their performances. Debby effuses empathy and a clear head while Kris becomes increasingly agitated by work and home. It’s a story many will find familiar, but unlike ‘I, Daniel Blake’ it lacks the triumphant moment of the little man standing up for himself. Keen to emulate current British politics, the film is unsure of their future.

Sorry We Missed You is in UK cinemas now.

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