Watch this as soon as you can…
Ken Loach’s 2019 film is a moving drama that may influence how you vote in the next UK General Election, if you watch it this week. It is difficult to conceive of a film more reflective of the exploitation of zero hours contracts than Loach’s Sorry We Missed You.
Ricky is sold the lie that he can run his own business. Instead of earning wages, he gets “fees” instead. He does not work for the company. Rather, he works with them. Seems great when framed like that. His wife is a carer, and not doing great herself. This seems like a good opportunity for Ricky, until he signs up. This means he has no workers rights, and vulnerable to exploitation from the company, and lacking in protections and guarantees afforded to most workers. This is a new phenomenon that, along with austerity policies, will come to define the Tory decade in government.
And what a harsh decade it has been. Ken Loach has expertly chosen his settings to remind us of this. The film is set in Newcastle, not depicted on screen enough, making this film refreshing. But it is a Newcastle under an overcast sky for the most part. Throughout, the atmosphere is exhausting and bleak. There are many fades to black, emphasising the despondency of the characters.
From this backdrop, and the premise, comes an emotionally gut-punching film. It is well-acted, to the point, at only 100 minutes in length, and all too real. It is detailed- the research done beforehand was clearly thorough. But this is not just a documentary depicting facts and figures. It represents an economic development, accepted as progress and a new part of our lives, having a very cold and harsh impact on people’s lives. This attack on zero hours contract is even more compelling as a result. Without characters you really come to care for, backed up by raw performances with a sense of purity, it wouldn’t work. Zero hours contracts are not the golden opportunity we have all been led to believe, and this film is excellent at hammering this point home.
For those who do know what these conditions are like, surely it is another reason to vote Labour this coming Thursday. Get the Tories out, to make films like Sorry We Missed You a dystopian fantasy rather than a lucid reflection of reality.