Film Review: Ken Loach’s “Sorry We Missed You” Will Infuriate You

He is perhaps Britain’s foremost cinematic chronicler of working-class angst and quotidian humanism.

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Ken Loach first learned about the “gig economy.” The debilitating delusion underlying that concept — the dream of being your own boss, only to find yourself trapped on an accelerating, unstoppable hamster wheel of work — fits right in with the veteran director’s moral vision of a world in which ordinary humans regularly think they can outsmart a system designed to destroy them. Loach is perhaps Britain’s foremost cinematic chronicler of working-class angst and quotidian humanism. Strident outrage bubbles just beneath the ambling, improvisational cadences of his films. And I can only imagine that the old lefty director of KesRaining Stones, and The Wind That Shakes the Barley blew a gasket when he learned about how so many of today’s workers have been bilked into thinking they can be free operators in a tech-enabled landscape of merciless profit. […] Continue reading

Advertisements

Movie Review: Sorry We Missed You

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. Continue reading

Ken Loach on ‘Sorry We Missed You,’ Rooting for Bernie Sanders, and How ‘The BBC Is a Right-Wing Org’

Sorry We Missed You

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.

Ken Loach
Ken Loach

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

Left-wing British film and television producer Tony Garnett dead at 83

Garnett’s career spanned 50 years, but he is identified above all with one of the most significant and creative periods in the history of television drama in the UK.

The highly respected film and television producer, writer and director Tony Garnett died on January 12 after a short illness, aged 83.

Garnett was born Anthony Edward Lewis on April 3, 1936, into a working-class family in Birmingham. His mother died when he was just five years old, of septicaemia two days after a backstreet abortion during the Second World War. His father, a munitions worker, committed suicide 19 days later.

Tony Garnett
Tony Garnett

Garnett’s career spanned 50 years, but he is identified above all with one of the most significant and creative periods in the history of television drama in the UK.

Originally an actor, he appeared in television’s The Boys (1962) and Z Cars (1962) and played several small parts in An Age of Kings (1960), the BBC’s influential production of Shakespeare’s history plays.

He moved behind the camera when he was hired as an assistant story editor at the BBC working on The Wednesday Play, which ran from October 1964 to May 1970 and aired more than 170 plays.

This famed series, which addressed social issues before an audience of millions, included the likes of Up the Junction (1965, about abortion), Cathy Come Home (1966, about homelessness), The Lump (1967, about casualised labour in the building industry), In Two Minds (1971, about mental illness as a social problem) and The Big Flame (1969, about a workers’ revolt on the docks), all produced by Garnett. During this period he began long associations with writer Jim Allen, dramatist David Mercer and, most notably, director Ken Loach.

His producing credits include Loach’s Kes (1969), After a Lifetime (1971), Family Life (1971—the film version of In Two Minds), Days of Hope (1975), The Price of Coal (1977) and Black Jack (1978), as well as Roy Battersby’s The Body (1970), Mike Leigh’s Hard Labour (1973), Julien Temple’s Earth Girls Are Easy (1985), Roland Joffe’s Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) and Hettie Macdonald’s Beautiful Thing (1996).

Garnett came into contact with Gerry Healy and the Socialist Labour League, the British Trotskyists, in the late 1960s. Although he never joined the Trotskyist movement, he was instrumental in organising discussions among actors, writers and directors, including Loach, Mercer, Roy Battersby and Corin and Vanessa Redgrave, that led to important gains within these circles. Playwright Trevor Griffiths depicted those meetings in his play, The Party (1973).

Continue reading