Sorry We Missed You
Starring Kris Hitchen Debbie Honeywood
Directed by Ken Loach
Rating: **** (4 stars)
The same day that I saw Anubhav Sinha’s masterpiece on domestic violence Thappad, I also saw British mastercraftsman Ken Loach’s latest work. And I couldn’t stop marveling at the stark differences between the two. Sinha’s film suffused with background music takes us through the lives of well-to-do middle-class women grappling with a one-off incident of domestic violence.
I wondered what the wife Abbie, played by non-professional actor Debbie Honeywood, in Ken Loach’s film would have to say about the worries of womanhood in Thappad. Abbie works from morning till late night as a special caregiver to the terminally ill or the old or the dying whom hospitals won’t accept. For a large part of the film, we see Abbie visiting different clients (she hates that word ‘client’) trying not to get involved with their fragile lives. Needless to say, it isn’t easy.
Abbie’s husband Ricky, played by Chris Hitchemn, has been hit hard by the recession. He has joined a courier service where the hours are grueling, the clients unpredictable and sometimes violent.
Together, from morning till night, Ricky and Abbie slog their butts off trying to give their two growing children a life of the security . It doesn’t work. As the film progresses we see with unbearable grief, how all of this brave dignified couple’s effort to keep the family’s head above water, is going to waste.
For a large part, Ken Loach follows the two non-actors (and I mean this in the most complimentary way) going from door to door where their job takes them. With zero adornments, minimum background and maximum use of natural sounds, Ken Loach creates a world we all know, a world where wealth is some good food on the table and a good night’s sleep.
Loach brings to the middle-class struggle a kind of dignified desperation that is heartbreaking. There is a sequence where one of Abbie’s compassionate clients combs Abbie’s hair singing a traditional lullaby for her, while Abbie weeps silently.
My eyes swell up as I describe this sequence. Some critics have said this film should have been just Abbie’s story and her husband’s as well. After seeing Abbie’s outburst at the end when she gives her husband’s ruthless boss a mouthful I’ve to agree with that. So many families across the world would fall apart were it for an ‘Abbie’.
Sorry We Missed You is a film you’ll be sorry to miss. It shows the deepest struggle of the working-class in Britain with the same heartbreaking honesty as Paddy Breathnach’s Rosie. Though the cockney accent may be a bit of a problem this is a film that leaves us with a profound sense of loss. Is it Ken Loach’s best? Who’s to say? How would you choose among the films from the luminous oeuvre of this minimalistic master whose character doesn’t act? They just are.