Ken Loach eviscerates the gig economy in this vérité masterpiece
With all the discussion over the last decade(s) about how the one percent are cast as these nefarious villains in their high castles, scoffing at and exploiting us mere plebeians attempting to survive in this increasing problematic era of capitalism, it is (dis)comforting to know that the tradition of documenting stories of the working class among filmmakers has found many new topics to discuss in their narratives. Mike Leigh, the Dardenne brothers, and of course, Ken Loach are delving into very intricate and humanistic stories that succinctly deconstruct the world of people ever on the verge of losing it, walking that razor’s edge of some sort of viable financial stability.
Loach’s latest compassionate salvo concerns a family trying to get by in post-industrial Gateshead in the northeast of England. Husband Ricky (Hitchen) has just got on as a driver for an Amazon-like parcel delivery service. He’s even invested in buying his own van, thereby creating a risk of impending financial crisis if he does not deliver the goods (Loach goes out of his way to assert that these people, these people who are delivering these items, your hand lotion, your dog treats, to you every day, are actually human beings). It’s his treatise on this type of Instacart culture, and it is quietly and magnificently compelling. Ricky’s wife Abbie (Honeywood) works as a hospice caregiver, making house calls to her elderly clients, but since Ricky sold their car to purchase the delivery van, she has to take the bus, which causes stress and delays her appointments. Their two children are dealing with their own issues, as the teenage son is involved in a physical altercation with a teacher and then gets arrested for shoplifting. The younger daughter is mutely having her own breakdown, witness to a family she is seeing becoming unmoored by inner and outside forces she doesn’t quite understand.
Loach is a master of depicting working class families and how they bear the emotional weight of humanity, only to have it come back to haunt them, as society breaks them down to a shell, lashing out against the ones they love. As you might be able to discern, this is not an easy film, but it is a brilliant film, and one that encompasses an aspect of the contemporary world with both grace and fisticuffs. While the title references that card that may stick on your door, alerting you to a missed item, the resonance of those words carry a weight in this film. And while Loach tends to pile on tragic misfortunes to his characters (a continuing commentary, it seems, on his worldview), there are sparks of light. They are sparks of the aspects of the human condition that can never be extinguished.