“First and foremost, it is a portrait of a family”; writer Paul Laverty’s insight into his thirteenth film in collaboration with Director and friend Ken Loach is illuminating and adds depth to what is already accomplished screenwriting.
I was lucky enough to be present for a Q and A session with Laverty at the Cameo Cinema on Friday evening after a showing of the film, in which he shed light on his research and writing process, informing the audience that as far fetched and unbelievable the challenges faced by the characters seem, they are inspired by real stories, they do happen and they often never see the light of day. That is, until now.
For father of two Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen), becoming a self-employed franchisee of a parcel delivery firm seems a welcome respite from dominating employers of his past, however, it soon becomes apparent that such gig economy jobs are not as freeing as they appear. Ricky’s wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) is in a similar situation, working a zero hour contract as a home visit nurse; Abbie is undeniably the heart of her family and Honeywood’s first time performance is truthful, humble and easily wins the hearts of the audience.
Laverty notes that the film is intended as a warning against the modern technology we now find dominating the workplace, the parcel scanners used by the drivers are a focal point of this, as franchisor Maloney says: “This decides who lives and who dies.” By placing drivers under relentless pressure and pitting them against one another for the best routes and fastest delivery times, the worker is exploited and degraded. As part of his research, Laverty spend time at work with real delivery drivers and was shocked at the speed with which they are meant to complete their route, sometimes not even having a spare moment to eat.
Ultimately, the consequences of Ricky and Abbie’s work lives impact their children and the distress and damage is clear. Similar to Loach’s previous work, the shooting style is muted, honest and unembellished with black screens separating the scenes and desperately little score within the film itself. While this ultimately made the use of music, when it came, all the more potent and emotive, it did feel that the film was somewhat lacking in emotional guidance for the audience at times. But, to credit Loach’s style and the cinematography and editing of Robbie Ryan and Jonathan Morris (respectively), the muted style communicated the tone and aim of the film well.
A strong script, cast and established style make Sorry We Missed You a potent piece of cinema which knows what it wants to say, yet offers no solution to the problem it highlights. Instead the audience is challenged to think differently about a form of consumerism which has embedded itself into our modern world and the real human consequences that we never see.
Sorry We Missed You is in cinemas now.
Reviewed as Film of the Week, in partnership with Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh.