The celebrated English director opens up to Cassie da Costa about his new film “Sorry We Missed You,” the evils of the gig economy, and his issues with the BBC.
The English director Ken Loach has the rare position of being known chiefly for his leftist politics, and how he works with screenwriter Paul Laverty and producer Rebecca O’Brien to bring the lives of working-class people to screen without a tinge of nostalgia.
His latest film, Sorry We Missed You, follows a working-class Newcastle family, including the long-unemployed Ricky; his wife, Abbie, a home care worker; and their children, the rebellious Seb and clever Liza Jane. A few years out of the 2008 global financial crash, the family is buried under a pile of seemingly insurmountable debt, having taken on loans and credit to survive. Ricky wants to fast-track the family back to financial fitness, and so takes a package-delivery job, replete with a grueling 14-hour-day schedule, punitive digital surveillance, and zero company (or “client,” as the corporate overlords must be called) liability.
The power of the film is not only in the painful realism with which it depicts inhumane working conditions and the neoliberal, technocratic logic that shape them, but also in its attention to the often humorous, lighthearted, and tender dynamics of a family and the community around them. Loach (and screenwriter Laverty) understood that while most people “put on a front at the job, when you’re at home, that’s when feelings emerge,” offers Loach. “At home—that’s when people lose it.” Sorry We Missed You is as much about care as it is abuse, and as much about the insight and intelligence of working-class people as it is about the various manipulations and distortions the ruling classes (and their henchmen) place upon them.
But, of course, the family isn’t made up of angels and martyrs—their circumstances are both structural and personal. Ricky seems to buy into the promises of the gig economy, even as he appears steamrolled by its overwhelming precariousness. By focusing on one family, Loach explained, the film is able to trace “how workers changed over the last 40 years since [former Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher’s determination to cut their living standards.” Continue reading →
Oscar winner Sir Sam Mendes revisits the films that have influenced his life and career.
In Life Cinematic, filmmakers draw on their knowledge and expertise to shine a light on the artistry of films that they love, be it the perfect protagonist, sound design, chase sequence or simply their favourite single shot.
The series begins with acclaimed British director Sir Sam Mendes, director of Oscar-nominated 1917 as well as (Oscar winning) American Beauty, Revolutionary Road and James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre. Mendes is interviewed by Edith Bowman, coming to BBC Four on Thursday 30 January and on BBC iPlayer: watch an introduction above and pull up a chair for Sam’s favourite scenes below
Perfect establishing scene
Blue Velvet (1986)
David Lynch’s Reagan-era neo-noir follows clean-cut student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle McLachlan) as he delves into the terrifying criminal underbelly of his picture-perfect hometown.
According to Lynch, “This is the way America is to me. There’s a very innocent, naive quality to life, and there’s a horror and a sickness as well. It’s everything.”
The film’s opening sequence would be a huge influence on Mendes’ own American Beauty.
Taxi Driver (1976)
In a pivotal moment in Martin Scorsese’s gritty New York thriller, loner Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) telephones the woman he is infatuated with to apologise for taking her to a porn flick on their first date.
As the socially awkward veteran vainly attempts to explain himself, the camera slowly pans away to focus instead on an empty hallway, as if too embarrassed to keep watching. For Scorsese, it was “the most important shot in the film”.