Sorry we missed you Ken Loach (UK 2019) Kris Hitchin, Debbie Honeywood
viewed Tyneside Cinema Newcastle, 12 11 2019; ticket £10.75
What is says on the packet
Ken Loach’s social realist drama delivers a polemic exactly as promised as would any Soviet era film which with peasants as its subject, would make dramatic mincemeat of kulaks or landlords. But the Loach’s film is none the worse for its intensity of purpose and singular passion with which it sets to expose the evils endured by a contracted out workforce.
The film is the better for being finely scripted, taking as its focus the situation of the family. It is Abbie and Ricky and their children who are folded into an economic logic that crushes the life out of them psychically and physically. Loach and Rafferty (script writer) ratchet up the pressure of coping day to day week to week with life’s incidents. With few resources the family are pushed to breaking point.
One of the great heroes of Soviet science, Pavlov, came to mind. As I watched the film, I saw one of the best critical observations of ‘smart’ phones absorbed in
its scenario. Pavlov’s dogs were trained to respond to the stimulus of bells as part of his passive avoidance experiments. Loach and Rafferty create the same effect with the smart phones owned by Abbie and Ricky as they respond to their phones call in the same way that Pavlov’s dogs responded to a bell: to avoid pain. There is probably a PhD to be done looking at Pavlovian psychology and mobiles.
And extending beyond the Pavlovian mobile it is this terrifying feeling of life being out of control that permeates the drama. Loach’s film is soap opera , but with passion to reveal not emotional flooding out for its own sake, but the forces behind the emotions he shows. The control of Abbie and Ricky’s life has passed into the hands of the managers. The structural position of the managers is that they are removed from the actualities of the work they supervise (in fact the less they know about it the better), they are simply structured into an enforcement protocol; their role is to be the algorithm of the rule book.
Abbie and Ricky are alienated functionaries, like most of us. Outside class outside community, just getting by. So when Seb their son picking up both intuitively and directly to the situation of the family, understands the wreckage of his parent’s life, he reacts by saying “NO” to carrying on as normal and rebels. And as this one NO ripples through the daily adjustments compromises and coping mechanisms, the family machine just disintegrates.
With a set of actors primed to the tenets of social realism, Loach delivers a film with a message. And what a message.