Despite a career that has spanned half a century, U.K. director Ken Loach is an auteur that casual filmgoers on this side of the Atlantic might not be very familiar with. That’s a shame, because even though Loach’s films are uniquely British, his themes of social inequality are more relevant than ever. The title of his 2019 family drama, Sorry We Missed You, refers to the header of the little note left in place of a delivery package that couldn’t be signed for. But just as easily, it could be an apology to all those marginalized and overlooked at the bottom rung of society.
Sorry We Missed You is the story of Ricky, a blue-collar family man who’s still standing on shaky ground after losing his financial footing during the Great Recession. Having worked a succession of temp jobs ever since, Ricky could be the poster child for the new gig economy. His wife, Abbie, is employed as a caregiver. Like all parents, all they want is a better life for their children – in this case, a prepubescent daughter, Liza Jae, and teenaged son, Seb.
Ricky pins his hope for a brighter future on joining a package-delivery franchise. The daily cost to rent a delivery truck is exorbitant, so he convinces Abbie to sell their only car so he could put a down payment on a truck of his own. The installments add to their financial burden, and Ricky’s workdays turn out to be harder and longer than he imagined. Abbie, now dependent on public transportation, finds her days equally stretched. Collapsing together from exhaustion at the end of each day, their family time becomes all but non-existent as the vicious circle threatens to turn intergenerational; Seb starts skipping school, and Liza Jae starts to suffer from anxiety and depression. It’s all too easy to imagine the seeds are being sown for future poverty and substance abuse.
Kris Hitchen brings rough edged, no-nonsense working class toughness to his portrayal of Ricky, as well as a sensitive tender side. Prior to Sorry We Missed You, Hitchen was an amateur with a smattering of bit parts under his belt. He’s so good here, there’s no doubt Hitchen’s acting career will receive a well-deserved boost. The same could be said of Debbie Honeywood as Abbie, who previously had only one IMDb credit to her name. Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor, who play Seb and Liza Jae, had zero prior screen credits, but you’d never guess by watching their performances. Refreshingly absent is the distracting baggage recognizable stars would bring, allowing domestic scenes to play out like a documentary. In fact, thanks to the talented cast and Loach’s fly-on-the-wall camera work, they can, at times, be uncomfortable to watch, as if we’re witnessing what should have been kept behind closed doors.
Sorry We Missed You is social conscious filmmaking at its finest. Its empathetic portrayal of the never-ending Sisyphean struggle the less fortunate must endure simply to survive make it a clarion call for change. But by portraying relatable characters and loving but realistically messy family dynamics, it transcends its political didacticism. No matter whom you vote for, you’ll find much to appreciate, and be moved by, in Sorry We Missed You.
For KSQD’s Film Gang, this is Paul Kanieski.