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Film reviews: Sorry We Missed You by Ken Loach
"A stark reminder of the inhumane lengths bosses will go to under capitalism to increase their profits"
"Let's get one thing straight, you don't work for us, you work with us". Those words from the boss's mouth in the opening scene of Sorry We Missed You get turned into a sick joke over the course of Ken Loach and Paul Laverty's latest film.
The hard-hitting drama follows Ricky, a jobbing builder who signs up as a supposedly self-employed delivery driver with a large parcel firm. The audience is taken on a vivid and darkly humorous journey on his rounds through Newcastle as he struggles to make sure that the parcels reach the customers on time, come what may.
Far from providing a route to his far-off dream of buying a house (scuppered for the first time when Northern Rock collapsed in 2008), Ricky instead ends up further and further in debt to the delivery company. As his teenage son goes off the rails, wife Abby tries to hold the family together while working morning, noon and night as a carer on a zero-hour contract.
As much as the impossible situation the characters find themselves in, what makes the film pack a real emotional punch is the believable way it's focused through the lens of an ordinary family, played convincingly by working-class actors with no formal training. Watching it brings to mind stories of friends, family members and personal experiences of trying to make a living in the super-casualised 'gig economy'.
Though a stark reminder of the inhumane lengths employers will go to under capitalism to increase their profits, the real life Rickys and Abbys aren't powerless to resist.
Earlier this year, delivery drivers for Hermes won the right to holiday pay and guaranteed earnings, while homecare workers in Birmingham defeated the Blairite council's attempts to impose the kind of anti-social hours shown in the film.
This must-watch film shows the urgent need for the trade union movement to turn our energy to organising these super-exploited workers, and campaigning to end zero-hour contracts and bogus self-employment, alongside a living wage for all.
Nick Hart, Wolverhampton Socialist Party
"See the film, join a union and join the fight against a rotten system"
After a decade of Tory attacks on working rights and austerity Ken Loach's Sorry We Missed You is a film that lays bare the reality of working families in Britain in 2019. It doesn't pull any punches and many of the scenes will be heartbreaking for audiences.
Whereas even Ken Loach's previous film 'I, Daniel Blake' even presented some optimism, Sorry We Missed You can only be described as devastatingly real right until the very end.
In the film, being self-employed is presented as a favourable choice for Ricky when it in fact completely reduces his ability to make meaningful decisions.
He has the choice to pay £65 a day to rent a van or to buy one outright which would only be £400 a month, far cheaper, but requires £1,000 deposit. Ricky can only make this money by selling his wife's car. In reality his choice is between suffering now or suffering later.
What is even more heartbreaking to see is the effects this has on Ricky's family. His wife, usually calm and composed as a carer, loses it with Ricky's employer. She asks him over the phone: "How does your company get away with this?" And that is the question to take away from the film. How do they get away with this? They have no respite. Even a family dinner is interrupted by Abby getting called to work due to her zero-hour contract and cuts to caring services.
The working class must mobilise to end this misery and fight back. The weekend, holiday pay and sick pay are all rights that the gig economy takes from workers - trade unions won these rights for workers before and they can win them again. See the film, join a union and join the fight against a rotten system that has reduced workers' lives to this state.
Michael Morgan, Coventry Socialist Party
In The Socialist 30 October 2019:
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