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Film Of The Week On message for December 12

Ken Loach's film on the obscenity of the gig economy is a vital reminder of what's at stake in the coming election, says MARIA DUARTE

Sorry We Missed You (15)
Directed by Ken Loach

AFTER his critically acclaimed I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach shines a much-needed spotlight on Britain's exploitative zero-hours contract and gig economy in this powerful, heart-wrenching drama.

It comes shortly after his impassioned speech on BBC Question Time in which he slammed the gig economy for killing a white-van driver, for which Loach was hailed  as a working-class hero by some social media users.

Penned by Paul Laverty, Loach’s long-term writing partner, Sorry We Missed You tells the story of a loving working-class family struggling to make ends meet and battling debt ever since the 2008 financial crash and the collapse of Northern Rock, which ended their dreams of owning their own home.

But father-of-two Ricky (Kris Hitchen), working endless odd jobs for years, sees an opportunity to get his family’s life back on track by becoming his own boss as a self-employed delivery driver.

He lays a guilt-trip on his care-worker wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) and she sells her car so that he can buy a van. That makes getting to her many elderly clients a much more arduous job and, being on a zero-hours contract, she is only paid for the visits she makes.

The film opens with a black screen and Ricky being enticed by his prospective employer (Ross Brewster, a former serving police officer) as to the advantages of working for himself and the company. “You don’t work for us, you work with us,” he tells him as he seals the deal with: “You are the master of your own destiny.”

The stark reality is that Ricky is beholden to the electronic scanner that tracks his every move and delivery. If he needs to take a day off and cannot provide a replacement driver, he is fined and sanctioned, plunging him into deeper debt and putting him in a moral quandary.

Both he and his wife end up working 14-hour-long days, after which they don’t have any time or energy for each other or their two kids who are left to fend for themselves.

Their 16-year-old son Seb (impressive newcomer Rhys Stone) is going off the rails and their wise younger daughter Lisa Jane (a phenomenal Katie Proctor) is the glue that is holding the family together.

With no cinematic frills or gimmicks, just a poignant screenplay brought to captivating life by his remarkable cast, Loach drives home the criminal injustice and inhumane practices of a gig economy, which exploits and penalises people desperately trying to keep afloat. In extreme cases, it costs them their lives.

With another general election looming, let’s hope that the film’s vital message isn’t lost in the melee. It will certainly make you see delivery drivers in a whole new, and compassionate, light.

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