Bless Ken Loach’s heart. The man is relentless in his refusal to stop depicting working-class stories. After all, even his closest competitor, Mike Leigh, has dabbled outside his comfort zone in the past; not Loach, though, who was once retired but is back to tell the tales. Good on him. I will freely admit that his latest, “Sorry We Missed You,” got to me for its first hour or so, but it eventually got tiresome in its attempts to hammer on its anti-capitalist message. The miseries kept piling up, so much so that it felt like overload.
This drama concerns hardworking Ricky (well-cast Kris Hitchen), his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), and their kids Seb (Rhys Stone), and Liza Jane (Katie Proctor). Their life is perfectly fine, and they all get along just cheerio, until Ricky’s friend persuades him to work as a van driver for a big delivery company. The end goal for both Ricky and Abbie is to stop renting and to buy a house. Given Loach’s penchant for dismissing capitalism with every movie of his, I think we know where this is going, right? It does start off just sunny, with Ricky’s tough-as-nails manager Maloney (Ross Brewster) warming up to his new employer. The message he gives him is rather simple; work more and get payed more. The job is so intense, Ricky is time-clocked via an all-important scanner, with no time to waste, that it eventually affects his family life. I mean, how could it not? The schedule has him working upwards of 14 hour days, 6 times a week. Hell, bathroom breaks are a no-go, which is why Ricky is given an empty plastic bottle, because, you know, just in case.
We all know this isn’t going to end well; after all, Loach is the master of misery. Maybe he needs a “Happy-Go-Lucky” in his system to let loose, but I doubt that will ever happen. The setup is tremendously on-point, and it works for about 2/3 of its runtime. However, things get permanently depressing as the troubles that arise with this job, a domino-effect of sorts, threaten the livelihood of his marriage, the relationship he has with his two kids and even have him developing a temper he never thought he had in him. Suffice to say, the kids are freaked. Lizzie Jane can’t stop shaking and starts peeing in her sleep, whereas Seb resorts to a life of petty crimes. Talk about over-the-top.
Loach lays it on thick. The system has always been depicted in his films as a way to crush you and your family; say goodbye to your hopes and dreams boyo, this is capitalism. The relentless and assaultive barrage of misery is damn-near exhausting, to the point where the film feels like a double album compilation of Ken Loach’s Greatest Hits, a mashup of all the marquee tunes, themes and ideals of his films, all bundled up into a single entity.
In other words, we are inundated with the kind of misery porn we’ve seen countless times before, but in better movies, starting with 1960’s Kitchen Sink dramas all the way to Leigh and Loach’s own marquee films. It’s too predictable, too familiar to truly be a home run, but whenever Loach subtly goes for our gut instead of our tears, much in the same vein as his last film, “I, Daniel Blake,” we get to see shades of the man who gave us the masterful “Kes,” — still his best movie by the way. [B-]