Film Review: ‘Sorry We Missed You’ Reminds Us of the Complexity We Look Away From in Everyday Affairs6 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
Ricky and his family have been fighting an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash. An opportunity to wrestle back some independence appears with a shiny new van and the chance to run a franchise as a self-employed delivery driver. It’s hard work, and his wife’s job as a carer is no easier. The family unit is strong but when both are pulled in different directions everything comes to breaking point.
Director: Ken Loach
Cast: Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor
Runtime: 101 minutes
The world we live in today can feel like it moves at breakneck speeds. We have become so used to how quickly the world is advancing that we become less and less tolerant towards waiting. Shopping online is a great example — from the moment we hit “checkout”, we wait impatiently for our orders to arrive.
But when was the last time any of us stopped to think about the process of delivering things right to our doorstep? Do we spare a thought for the people who work tirelessly to keep us satisfied? Sorry We Missed You is a film that tells the story of the sacrifices people make in a world that is so increasingly demanding we are constantly competing to catch up.
Right from the opening scene, Sorry We Missed You shows us everything we need to know about the film’s premise and the overarching themes it explores. We meet Ricky (Kris Hitchen), who has just taken on a job as a delivery van driver. He is guaranteed a great working environment and a positive experience with the company, but within minutes the promises completely fall apart and obstacles appear one after another.
The idealistic outlook is just a front for what is unsurprisingly still a business-driven company. Ricky is forced to either rent or buy a van before he has even made any money, leading him to spend money just so he has any hope of earning money. Ricky, like many of the other van drivers, is not in the best position to part with his cash. But the company’s system is not designed to take pity on him, so he is left with no choice but to take the risk.
Back at home, Ricky’s wife, Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) is a carer and they have two kids — older brother with delinquent tendencies Seb (Rhys Stone), and kind-hearted younger sister Liza Jane (Katie Proctor). Even though they are already struggling to make ends meet with their current financial situation, Ricky and Abbie’s problems only seem to pile up. Seb is causing trouble at school and disciplining him has become difficult, while Ricky’s long working hours keep him from spending time with Abbie.
The film captures the toll that familial issues can bring unto a person and makes us think about the psychological impact or even the trauma that such circumstances can bring. It also shows how issues can seem impossible to ever resolve when other people are involved and the relationships between people get tangled up.
Sorry We Missed You chooses to use characters in different stages of life — Liza Jane appears to be in primary school, Seb is a teenager with growing pains, and Ricky and Abbie are working adults and parents. This creates interesting dynamics between characters while also being very aware that simply because people in different stages of life experience different problems, no one has it easier or harder than anyone else. Being at different stages in life also puts up barriers between the characters that make it harder for them to understand one another, but you can barely fault them for what is naturally a part of familial relationships.
The beauty of the film is in its ability to depict its characters as good yet imperfect people. No one is intentionally malicious and even when people try to do good, they sometimes fail. This is precisely what we see in reality but not often on screen. The conflicts that arise are not from people taking good and bad sides, but rather people who all want to do good but disagree on what doing good looks like.
You can see why everyone has different ideals, in fact, no one is explicitly more right or wrong than the others, their beliefs are all shaped by their own character and experiences. The writing uses the depth of its characters and the complexity of their relationships to transform simple issues into something much more emotional and close to home.
We look to entertainment for an escape from reality and we always hope for “happy ever after”s, but Sorry We Missed You cannot give us that. Instead, it takes what we have resigned ourselves to ignore in our lives and forces us to see the weight of the emotions that we have suppressed. We feel more comfortable ignoring the emotional weight that comes with family and job issues, but the film makes us sit with these heartbreaking problems and look them in the eyes to acknowledge that this experience is indeed a reality for us and many others.
We have become numb to these hardships because that is how we cope with them, but once we look at them from an observer’s point of view, it becomes painfully obvious that this is not or at least should not be the norm. It is a hard-to-swallow reminder that ignoring our problems leads to forgetting the consequences that these same problems have on the people around us and on ourselves.
Sorry We Missed You is a great example of how the most powerful stories are not always the flashiest. There hardly needs to be any special effects or famous actors to capture an audience, draw out their emotions, and leave them reflecting on life. In a time when people hardly have the time to slow down and reflect on their life, perhaps what we need is less escapism and more self-awareness. This film is a reminder that we might not want, but it is a reminder we need. If the context of the film scares you, perhaps that is a sign that all the more you should be watching it right now.
Sorry We Missed You is part of the Singapore Mental Health Film Festival’s 2021 programme which features films about the human spirit and mental health. Accompanying the film is panel conversation “COVID-19 And Navigating The Demands Of Change”, gathering individuals from different walks of life in a discussion on the impacts of the pandemic. The panel starts at 8 pm, 26 May 2021, streaming online on https://smhff.com/films-and-panels/sorry-we-missed-you.
For full programme details, head over to https://smhff.com/.