Director Ken Loach (“I, Daniel Blake”) is a master in highlighting the struggle of the ordinary man. His camera is a laser beam that pinpoints the joys and desires, the highs and lows of daily life. Loach has the ability to make men and women seem like heroes and sometimes villains. His characters are often the prime movers of their own destiny, even though that destiny is sometimes indifferent or petty.
In the director’s latest “Sorry We Missed You,” circumstances have never been darker.
Rick (Kris Hitchen) is a blue collar dad in Manchester England. Though he works very hard he can never make ends meet. At a meeting, Rick has the opportunity to drive a delivery truck with the plan to start his own business and take control of his life. But there is a catch: Rick’s boss.
Maloney (Ross Brewster) is hard as nails. Rick cannot be a second off schedule. If he is late with his packages, he has to bear the brunt in lost wages. If that is not enough, drivers are responsible for the equipment. Equipment dysfunction is not a valid excuse.
Rick goes from house to house, often being verbally abused by customers. In one scene he is harshly berated for being a Manchester United fan. In another he goes to the wrong address and then is held up by a house-bound man. Each episode causes him to be up against it, berated by the physically imposing Maloney.
When he returns home, his wife Abby (Debbie Honeywood) is a weary nurse and his son Seb (Rhys Stone) is aloof and rude but he loves creative graffiti. The parents also have a young daughter Liza Jane (Katie Proctor) who restrains her anxiety.
After getting an advantage by taking Liza along for the ride and having an easy time with Seb, the next morning Rick discovers that his son is about to be expelled. Maloney chews out Rick for being behind and Rick has no choice but to skip the mandatory school meeting regarding his son.
Seb mocks Rick for being a no show, causing him to lose his temper and punch his son. Liza pees the bed. Husband and wife argue and scream.
Rick has no control over his circumstances, he unravels and the house seems to darken as if in a horror film.
This could almost be the circumstance of an Ari Aster family fright fest as in “Hereditary,” but Loach makes you care immensely about these characters with heart and humor so that we never lose interest or become jaded with eyes glazed over.
Rick is not a perfect dad but he is one that will fight tooth and nail for his family’s survival. The film seems to say that a dad just might have to turn monstrous to become a provider, but if that is what it takes, so be it.
“Sorry We Missed You,” which would parallel nicely with Boots Riley’s telemarketing nightmare “Sorry To Bother You,” is Loach’s most scathing film yet and he remains one of the most uncompromising of our directors, fearless and direct, and he is also one of the most human.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org