Phew, what a hard hitting film this is! Showing the everyday struggles of any lower middle class family living in today’s world.
We meet the father who is landing what sounds like a dream job being a delivery driver. The boss makes it sound like he’ll be his own sort of private contractor (where in reality, he’s working for the delivery company and gets pushed around just like everyone else in the regular world.) He soon learns that “being his own boss” and “making as much money as he wants to” is a load of crap, as he’s working 16 hour days 6-7 days a week.
Then we have the mother of the family, who is a caretaker for the elderly and disabled. Saintly work honestly. But also very trying and heartbreaking work. Early in the movie, she has to sell her vehicle so her husband can buy a van outright (to prevent rental charges from the company (a red flag if I ever saw one)) Anyways, we find the wife ending up using public transportation to get in between patients. This leads to her days also being 12-16 hours long. So neither of the parents are ever home.
The couple has two children. A son who is probably around 14-16 years old, and a daughter who is around 11-12. The son is constantly getting in more and more serious trouble. He see himself as an artist, and has a group of friends who also enjoy “sharing” their art with the city. Aka street art/graffiti.
The daughter is the one who takes the brunt of everything that is going on in the house and bottles up all of the collective feelings. She’s only twelve, but she fully sees everything and knows how one character’s actions affect the rest of the family’s moods and behaviors. This obviously takes a toll on her mental well-being, as we see as the movie progresses. Bed wetting begins. Crying. As well as trying to act as the glue to hold the family together.
The film climaxes at a point where the son gets into trouble with the police for shoplifting (after an undisclosed number of skipped school days), and the father has to leave work to sort things out with the police. His boss is an uncaring bastard that doesn’t understand that people have lives outside of his depot. This leads to him charging the boy’s father £100/day that he misses work.
No only does his son have troubles, but the lead character himself ends up getting jumped when he stops to take a pee in a bottle (the company does not allow the drivers to take restroom or meal breaks). Three or four guys beat the living crap out of him and make off with a lot of the packages in his truck.
He lands in the emergency room, wife at his side, waiting for test results to see what is broken and possibly bleeding internally. His dispatcher calls to see where he is, and, after some half-hearted concern, informs him that not only will he still be docked the £100/day, but he’ll owe an additional £1000 for the package tracking/scanning device that was smashed while the guy was being mugged. This leads to his wife grabbing the phone a telling the boss off (something I think anyone watching the movie wanted to do). After which the couple goes home.
The whole family is worried about the father that evening, his son comes in to check on him in bed. Early the VERY NEXT morning, the father writes a note, telling his family not to worry that he was going into work. They come running out of their flat to stop him, but he somehow escapes and the film fades to black.
I think director Ken Loach hits the nail on the head with what is currently wrong with most societies in first world countries these days. We are trained, nay, programmed to believe that a dedication to our jobs is, by far, the most important thing in our lives. It’s rather terrifying if you stop and think about it. No one has the possibility to enjoy life or their families, because, in order to make ends meet, we all have to work and commute the vast majority of our lives away.
Sorry We Missed You does an incredible job of painting the life of a real-world working-class family. The storyline is packed well enough that the movie never really feels like it’s plodding along. Even the cinematography helps to paint a grim gritty lifestyle by not showing super clean images.
The film is currently available to stream on The Criterion Channel, I highly recommend giving it a watch, and look forward to seeing what Loach does next.