‘Sorry We Missed You’: Not sorry we robbed you!
Kris Hitchen

Director Ken Loach’s stunning, powerful new film Sorry We Missed You is a 101-minute primer in how the new gig economy steals workers’ labor, crushes their spirits and disintegrates their families.

Loach has been a filmmaker for over 50 years. Among his many awards, he has won the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or twice. He has been voted one of Britain’s greatest directors. Sorry We Missed You is one of his very best.

Loach excels at clear linear narrative. He is an actor’s director who doesn’t patronize his audiences. The story carries his message with little artifice. In this latest film, he slowly builds dramatic tension through just a few fully realized characters.

Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen) is a victim of the 2008 British economic collapse. He lost his job and his housing, but hasn’t lost his will to work. To support his small family, he’s taken on all kinds of jobs, from factory work to landscaping, from building houses to digging graves. Too proud to go on the dole, we meet Ricky as he applies to become a driver at PDF—the Amazonian Parcel Delivery Fast.

Authoritarian warehouse supervisor Gavin Maloney (Ross Brewster) sets out the framework of this modern sweatshop on wheels in Orwellian Newspeak: “You don’t work for us—you work with us. You don’t drive for us—you perform services. There’s no employment contracts. There’s no performance targets. You meet delivery standards. There’s no wages, but fees. There’s no clocking on, you become available.”

But once one signs on to become an “owner-driver franchisee” you lose all your rights and benefits. Supervisor Maloney tells new workers they become masters of their own destinies. “It sorts the fucking losers from the warriors.” Thus the franchisee arrangement shifts all risk and blame to the workers who are controlled by electronic scanners monitoring their every move.

Loach tells Ricky’s story simply but with devastating effect. The delivery is precise and effective. The conditions of employment rob the franchisee of choices, rights and dignity.

To purchase the necessary company van, Ricky needs to have his wife Abby sell her own car, reducing her to long, late bus rides for her demanding caregiver job. Ricky’s own work runs 14 hours a day and weeks on end without time off. Teenage son Seb and pre-adolescent daughter Liza suffer neglect. The family begins to disintegrate, relationships and schooling suffer, members turn against each other. The very work which provides their support threatens to break them apart.

Ken Loach has often cited De Sica’s classic 1948 Bicycle Thieves as instructive in how the inherent drama of ordinary people’s lives reveals the important issues of our times. Possibly more than any of this other work, Sorry We Missed You stands as an example of the economic struggles which define our times. Loach’s work is an enormous contribution toward understanding our world. Hopefully it is not his last great work.

The trailer can be viewed here. Release date is March 6.


Michael Berkowitz
Michael Berkowitz

Michael Berkowitz, a veteran of the civil rights and anti-war movements, has been Land Use Planning Consultant to the government of China for many years. He taught Chinese and American History at the college level, worked with Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org. with miners, and was an officer of SEIU.