Film Fest 919: What’s the difference between Ken Loach and Bruce Springsteen? Both are poets of the working class, albeit on different continents, but only the latter sees hope in their plights. Loach’s latest movie, “Sorry We Missed You,” playing down in Chapel Hill at Film Fest 919, lacks anything resembling that. The filmmaker wants you to sympathize with he family at the center of his latest social story, but aside from setting them up to fail, he gives you nothing to hang on to. Instead of feeling their pain, you just want the pain to stop being inflicted and the movie to come to an end. Then, when it does, the resolution is so off-putting it soils what preceded it even more.
“Sorry We Missed You” is misery porn, plain and simple. Loach, to again compare him to Springsteen, doubles down on pain, as opposed to finding some measure of grace. The former sees these people as pawns to maneuver in order to get his point across. The latter looks for small victories to hold up for them. Loach never has been one to look for much hope, but he goes overboard in terms of bleakness here. Once the wheels of tragedy begin, this becomes a slog with little in the way of redeeming qualities.
The Turner family is struggling to get by. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, Ricky (Kris Hitchen) and his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) are working harder than ever. Their son Seb (Rhys Stone) is a budding troublemaker, though young daughter Lisa Jane (Katie Proctor) is largely a joy. In an effort to do better for his family, Ricky makes a pricy investment and takes a chance to run a franchise of his own, working as a self employed delivery truck driver. Combined with Abbie’s job as a caregiver to the elderly, if everything goes right, they may finally get out of the hole that debt has forced them into.
For a bit, things work. Ricky’s new job is tough, while Abbie is more and more stressed by hers, but the family bond is strong. However, when Seb’s troubles grow worse, the jobs begin asking too much of the couple, and overall stresses bring everyone to the boiling points, things majorly fray. A breaking point is reached, but then things only get worse.
The pair of Kris Hitchen and especially Debbie Honeywood do their best to still invest you in this film. Rhys Stone is fine too, but his character is so poorly handled, he can’t overcome that. Hitchen effectively portrays a strained working class bloke, one with simple ambitions, while Honeywood is the heart and soul of not just the family, but the picture itself. When they fight, you feel their pain. If only the rest of the movie found that emotional resonance.
Ken Loach has gone overboard on his worst instincts here. What’s worse, he wastes cinematographer Robbie Ryan, who does solid yet wholly unspectacular work. Had Loach not ended things the way he does, giving new meaning to a film stopping instead of ending, perhaps his story wouldn’t seem so frustratingly morose. At best, it would have been lesser Loach, but this is almost a parody of the moral dramas he’s been making for decades. The thing is, nobody is laughing, so the joke is on him.
This sort of story isn’t that hard to pull off. You just need to not stack the deck and provide some measure of hope. “Sorry We Missed You” does neither. Instead of being a cautionary tale or a portrait of a fraction of society on the brink, it’s just an exercise in suffering. Loach fans deserve better, and so too did the audience at Film Fest 919. This is a deeply forgettable movie.