sorry we missed you…

I went along to the Watershed this afternoon to see Ken Loach’s film “Sorry We Missed You”. The words in the title are frequently used on those postcards the delivery drivers push through your letterbox when they’ve tried to deliver a package when you’re ‘out’.
Before you go to see a Ken Loach film, you pretty much know what you’re in for. It’ll be hard-hitting. It won’t pull any punches… and, almost certainly, it’ll be a political statement (it certainly won’t be a celebration of austerity and Tory Britain).
And so it proved.

The family in the photograph (who ‘star’ in the film) represent just an ordinary, working class family. The mother and father are both hard-working individuals who do their utmost to earn a living… but it’s a struggle to achieve anything but basic survival in austerity Britain. The father, Ricky, is a former construction worker who lost his job and home in the 2008 financial crash (not many bankers have similar stories). He’s eager to make a go at being his own boss and takes on a quasi-freelance delivery post… involving punishing hours, a zero-hours contract with no support or benefits, a ruthless manager and the need to make a substantial investment of his own ‘up front’. The mother, Abby, is a care worker who herself faces exploitative pressures, doing her utmost to nurture the sick and elderly people in her care, within the few minutes allowed by her agency.
It’s a truly gut-wrenching, heart-breaking film.
It’s based on rigorously researched off-the-record interviews. Despite their very best endeavours, families are utterly trapped… there’s nowhere to go and they are financially crippled. They are exploited by an unscrupulous system which robs vulnerable, decent people of their dignity and hope for a better life. How are families expected to deal with the demands of family life when their employers lock individuals into a world that doesn’t offer ‘time off’ to deal with the challenges of ‘normal’ family life (and working very long hours) - relationships, health and school issues et al.
It’s a damning critique of an unequal, unfair system.

It would be good to ensure that EVERYONE standing in the forthcoming parliamentary elections (but especially prospective government ministers!) was made to sit through this film. Sadly, I think that many of them wouldn’t have the first inkling of what it might be like to live such lives… and it’s vitally important that they should.
It’s a brilliant, shocking, very hard-to-take, powerful film. See it if you can… but I would absolutely understand if you decided you couldn’t put yourself through it.