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 Kes, Raining 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 →
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 →
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 →