Criterion Prediction #227: Sorry We Missed You, by Alexander Miller
Title: Sorry We Missed You
Director: Ken Loach
Cast: Kris Hitchens, Debbie Honeywood, Ross Brewster, Rhys Stone
Synopsis: Ricky, a downtrodden delivery driver, makes a motivated decision to resolve his debt and provide for his family by working in the field of zero-hour contracts and gig work.
Critique: Ken Loach doesn’t falter; his vision is strong, stable, consistent, and deliberately unsubtle. Sorry We Missed You comes off like a spiritual sequel to I, Daniel Blake, a point-blank indictment of labor and healthcare-related bureaucracies (state institutions as a whole) hones in on the more specific arena of gig- economy and those still suffocating from the economic fallout of 2008. While he hangs (what can be seen as) a relatively thin narrative around didactic fist-thumping, there’s a resonant sincerity to the whole affair — bolstered by his characteristically confrontational dialogue and framing devices. The story is built with expedience, but we never feel rushed. The progression is organic, and the expository dialogue stems from the protagonist’s inauguration into a career that is a rigged game – the more we learn alongside Ricky Turner, the more we see how stacked the odds are against him.
At times it feels like you’re being bonked on the head, but it’s not from the sanctimonious bits but the stupefying, even Sisyphean nature of zero-hour contracts.
The Loachian moments are all there, the declarative dialogue where we see our downtrodden lead getting chewed out, someone losing it, telling an authority figure to “fuck off” when they deserve it the most, all rendered with the unadorned naturalism we’ve come to know and love.
Is it pandering to create such scenes of wish fulfillment, or is it something we should take to heart? Social context aside Sorry We Missed You works because it’s about a family, and what Ken Loach works beyond dramatic tropes of “bonding” or “working out differences” conveying that the essential element is one thing, survival. Performance-wise Hitchens and Honeywood are terrific as the headline leads, but Ross Brewster plays a phenomenal prick boss, pitch-perfect.
Why it Belongs in the Collection: While I’d like to make a case for the inclusion of all of Loach’s films, teleplays, and documentaries, let’s start with his most recent effort, Sorry We Missed You. In early 2017 we got a surprise release of I, Daniel Blake, which at the time was Loach’s most recent film. The distribution model for I, Daniel Blake is similar to that of Sorry We Missed You, and in releasing I, Daniel Blake Criterion boosted the profile of the film. While this is inevitable with any film’s inclusion to the revered library, the case with I, Daniel Blake has more dimension; releasing it is, in some ways, a political statement. The tone and temperament of Sorry We Missed You is so similar to Loach’s preceding feature it would be a comparable follow-up/companion should it fall into The Criterion Collection.