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'Sorry We Missed You': A Working-Class Drama With A Heart


The title of Ken Loach's new film comes from the door tags a British parcel company leaves when it can't make a delivery. Critic Bob Mondello says the working-class drama "Sorry We Missed You" has a subtext no one will miss.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Before there are any images on screen, we hear a man running through his work experience at a job interview.


KRIS HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) Drainage, digging out, roofing, flooring, plumbing - I've even dug graves. I've done it all.

ROSS BREWSTER: (As Gavin Maloney) Have you ever been on the dole?

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) No. No, no, no, I've got my pride. I'd rather starve first.

BREWSTER: (As Gavin Maloney) Music to my ears, Ricky.

MONDELLO: Ricky is applying for a spot as a delivery guy, a gig economy gig that's essentially freelance.


BREWSTER: (As Gavin Maloney) There's no employment contracts, no performance targets, no wages but fees.

MONDELLO: Think Uber but for packages and with very precise delivery times.


BREWSTER: (As Gavin Maloney) You sign up with us, you become an owner-drive franchisee. You up for that?

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) Yeah, I've been waiting for an opportunity like this for ages.

BREWSTER: (As Gavin Maloney) Just one more thing before we go ahead with the franchise - you bringing your own van? Or are you going to hire with us?

MONDELLO: Aye, there's the rub - big expenses either way. And Ricky's wife Abbie points out a few other issues - no benefits to speak of, no time off.


DEBBIE HONEYWOOD: (As Abbie Turner) It'd be like 14 hours a day, six days a week. I'd never see you. We'd never see each other.

MONDELLO: She works 14-hour days already as a home health aide - has been since the 2008 financial crisis squelched their dreams of owning a home. Ten years later, the dream's still out of reach.


HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) I don't want to live somewhere where we're always told how long we can stay or whether we need to move out. We need to find a thousand-pound deposit to offer to them.

HONEYWOOD: (As Abbie Turner) A thousand pounds - the only thing we've got is my car. You know I need it for work.

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) In two years' time, I'll have enough money together to get our own place, another deposit for a mortgage.

MONDELLO: So sell the car, get the van and let the realities hit - traffic, parking tickets, wrong addresses, dogs, one-hour delivery windows, two-minute meal breaks. And no time for the kids - 11-year-old Liza, who's so stressed by her parents' stress that she's wet the bed, her older brother Sebastian, who leaves the apartment each morning backpack filled not with books but with spray paint for graffiti; college and studying the furthest thing from his mind.


HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) They sent a letter about it last month, Seb (ph). We're going to get a fine, love.

HONEYWOOD: (As Abbie Turner) Seb, we've talked about this. You could go to uni.

RHYS STONE: (As Sebastian Turner) What? - and be like Harpoon's brother? Fifty-seven grand in debt, getting smashed every weekend just to forget his problems.

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) It don't have to be like that, does it? There's some good jobs out there.

STONE: (As Sebastian Turner) Good jobs - what good jobs?

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) Well, there is if you just knuckle down. Otherwise, you're just going to end up like - well, I don't know...

STONE: (As Sebastian Turner) What? - like you?

HONEYWOOD: (As Abbie Turner) Seb.

STONE: (As Sebastian Turner) Do you really think I want that?

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) I want to be better for you. I want to be better for Liza.

MONDELLO: Director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty have explored these kinds of pressures in their other films together - tales of pensioners fighting bureaucracy, workers treated like cogs in a machine. But in "Sorry We Missed You," the filmmakers and their terrific cast find upbeat moments to counter the gloom...


HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) Here; scan it. Scan it.

KATIE PROCTOR: (As Liza Turner) Made it.

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) Ah, yes.

MONDELLO: ...Say, when Liza spends a Saturday hitting the road with her dad on deliveries.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Are you helping your dad?

PROCTOR: (As Liza Turner) Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Here, get yourself some sweets on the way.

PROCTOR: (As Liza Turner) Thank you. Bye. Thank you.

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) See you, bye-bye.

PROCTOR: (As Liza Turner) Ah, that's the third tip.

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) Proper gold digger, you, aren't you?

PROCTOR: (As Liza Turner, laughing).

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) I never get any tips.

PROCTOR: (As Liza Turner) That's because you're not as cute as me.

HITCHEN: (As Ricky Turner) Oh, you think so?

MONDELLO: Moments of joy amidst exhaustion and desperation - and when you think it can't get worse, it does. Because it's a Ken Loach film, the politics is front and center. But also because it's a Ken Loach film, the people are real and involving. And there is so much caring and, ultimately, kindness in family.

I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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