The themes of Sorry We Missed You, like that of I, Daniel Blake, resonate with people not just in Britain, but all over the world. This is all down to the way director Ken Loach and his long-time collaborators, writer Paul Laverty and producer Rebecca O'Brien, focus on the struggles faced by individual characters. The association between the trio goes back a long way and they are known for Looking for Eric featuring former Manchester United forward Eric Cantona.
Poignant: Sorry We Missed You centres on a working-class family that has fallen on hard times due to the global financial crisis, an indictment of the neoliberal system that late capitalism is know for.
The main focus of Sorry We Missed You is on the Turner family. Ricky (Manchester-born Kris Hitchen, The Navigators) is a struggling tradie who has effectively been underemployed since the building industry crumbled following the global financial crisis. His wife Abby (Debbie Honeywood in her first lead role) is an aged-care nurse who gets paid for every vulnerable senior citizen who lives alone that she checks up on. They have a teenage son Seb (Rhys Stone) and a daughter Lysa (Katie Proctor). Ricky is offered a chance to become his own boss and turn his life around by becoming an owner-driver contracted to Parcels Delivered Fast. He buys a van using funds made available from selling Abby's car, which she needed for work. As the couple get pulled in different directions in the course of their work, tensions start to surface. It does not help that Seb exhibits signs of teenage rebellion and is playing truant, preferring to hang out with a group of graffiti artists who get a thrill from vandalizing public buildings. Lysa is also feeling traumatised by her family's circumstances and it later pushes her to do something unthinkable.
The title of the film is derived from the calling cards left by couriers whenever a recipient of a package is not at home. The film is hard-hitting in that it lays bare the abuse thrown at working people attempting to eke out a decent living by taking part in the gig economy. Both Ricky and Abby need to put in long hours at their jobs in return for very little remuneration. The film's setting in Newcastle-upon-Tyne provides a sombre backdrop. The northeastern English city may be famous for its local football team but it is also one of the main economically-disadvantaged regions in the country. The collapse of Northern Rock during the global financial crisis resulted in many people losing their arranged mortgages, and the Turners are among that number.
Loach uses Sorry We Missed You as yet another social commentary like he did with most of his previous work. This film was inspired by the tragic story of a diabetic courier who could not afford to take time off from work to attend medical appointments, leading to his untimely demise. It is a potshot at late capitalism and how it is destroying people from the inside. What the Turner family faces is undoubtedly depressing and we the audience cannot help but feel their pain just as we felt the pain of Daniel Blake, who also happened to be a Geordie. The children Seb and Lysa hardly see their parents and thus quite out of the loop as to the family's financial situation. Seb engages in behaviour that gets him in trouble with the law and his father at risk of losing his franchise. These are things that are not uncommon in real life and it is easy for audience members to identify with.
Hitchen and Honeywood display good chemistry as Ricky and Abby Turner. They have carried their leading roles well despite their relatively unknown status. Child stars Stone and Proctor appear natural despite this film being their first. Rounding off the rest of the cast are various supporting characters, the most memorable being the freight depot manager who is driven purely by profit and totally oblivious to the welfare of the drivers, like most neoliberals are. The heavy use of Geordie accents give a touch of realism as to which socioeconomic backgrounds the Turners are from. However, it is a little bit hard for untrained ears to follow. Quirky humour related to football is also thrown in, which is a typical British trait.
Sorry We Missed You was the winner of five awards and nominated for six. It was shown at film festivals in Cannes and Chicago, among others. In Australia, it was an exhibit at the Sydney Film Festival in June before returning briefly as part of the British Film Festival during the month of November. The regular season will commence on Boxing Day.
If you had liked Looking for Eric and I, Daniel Blake, it is going to be hard to pass up Sorry We Missed You. It is hard to dispute that Loach, Laverty and O'Brien make a great team. Just a reminder, if you happen to be one of those who get quite emotional, do not forget to pack some Kleenex with you when you go see this film.