Sorry We Missed You is vintage Ken Loach: a credible story about an average family that sees its chance at a bit of happiness destroyed by an inhuman system.
Knowing Ken Loach, his indignation about terrible working conditions is a bigger motivation than winning another Golden Palm. Even at 83 years old, he will jump to the defence of employees who get screwed over by exploitative companies while the government stands by and does nothing.
In Sorry We Missed You the standard bearer of social-realist cinema casts a spotlight on the everyday misery of a family of four. The vast majority of their problems are caused by a lack of time for one another. That lack of time is a consequence of the working conditions of the mother and father. She is an overworked home nurse who is forced to deal with her patients at breakneck speed, while he grossly underestimated his new job as a delivery man. As a freelancer with his own van, he hopes to earn a good living (and pay off debts). But the contract with the courier company turns out to be a killer contract. The working hours are impossible, the risks are enormous, and the lack of rights is a slap in the face of anyone who ever made sacrifices in the struggle for workers’ rights. The last thing he needs on top of all this is an adolescent son who constantly skives off school and expresses his anger at dysfunctional society through graffiti.
This is not the first time that the clever and meticulously researched script by Paul Laverty, who has been Loach’s right-hand-man for decades, is somewhat schematic, simplistic, and didactic. But you hardly notice that because Loach’s realistic style is so efficient, the actors are so natural, and the scenes are so true to life. You don’t have to share Loach’s political ideas to believe what you see and to have respect for his directness. Sorry We Missed You doesn’t mince words, so we shouldn’t either. The day on which the socially committed born storyteller swaps his camera for his slippers and a good book will be a sad day for us all.