Illustration by Hannah Robinson
Ken Loach and Paul Laverty are back with their latest film Sorry We Missed You – an honest yet moving insight into the reality of the gig economy. Following the success of their last film I, Daniel Blake, which looked at the effects of Britain’s flawed benefits system, it’s no surprise that their most recent film is equally powerful. But despite its relevance, it hasn’t received the publicity it deserves.
The film focuses on a family living in Newcastle. Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) is a carer on a zero-hour contract who doesn’t have enough time to give everyone the care they desperately need. Her husband Ricky (Kris Hitchen) is a delivery driver who is fed the lie that he is his own boss, when in reality he’s part of a hostile working environment where he can never take a day off. The reason this film feels so real is because it is. This family could be any family across the country who can’t afford to buy a house despite working overtime every day. The parents are never at home to do basic things like cook for their kids or get them ready for school. They’re trapped by zero-hour contracts, at risk of losing their jobs if they don’t do the hours asked of them, even if this means working 15 hours a day.
The film details the far-reaching, personal effects of the gig economy; those that aren’t immediately obvious. Even if you already know about the issues with zero-hour contracts, watching this lived experience on screen is still shocking. Silence hung in the air as the credits rolled, and it continued to as the audience filed out of the cinema. After the film I kept thinking: ‘imagine if every voter watched this film’. In the upcoming election we have the chance to change the exact systems that this film targets.
Ken Loach’s films are made on a low budget, so they don’t have the funding for lots of adverts. There’s also the possibility that social-realist, state-of-the-nation films are becoming less popular as people seek films that allow them to get away from politics. But I’m hopeful this film will be as popular as I, Daniel Blake, which sparked discussion in Parliament and became a crucial reference point when discussing the benefits system.
Sorry We Missed You needs to be seen by more than just middle-class Labour voters. As a truthful and powerful depiction that can only be achieved through film, it highlights the urgent need for Labour’s manifesto, which promises to scrap zero-hour contracts, introduce a £10 living wage for all workers, and reduce working hours. It shows why these policies cannot be described as ‘too radical’.
This film has the power to win the general election for Labour. It does a lot of things, but overall it shows the potential of art to have social impact. If everyone in Parliament spent one hour and forty minutes following this story – which stays true to the lives of so many families across the country – we’d be having very different conversations. And if as many voters as possible went to see this film, the result of the general election on 12 December would be clear.