I didn’t review I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s searing 2016 critique of Britain’s brutal austerity era social service ‘reforms,’ during its theatrical run. Those reforms have been linked to well over a hundred thousand otherwise preventable deaths since 2012, and Daniel Blake pulled no punches in its depiction of the new system’s casual cruelty and bureaucratic rigidity.
The king of British kitchen-sink realism returns with Sorry We Missed You, opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, March 13. This time Loach’s target is the gig economy, and the result is a film that will likely grace many critics’ best-of-year lists.
Ricky (Kris Hitchen) is a middle-aged family man tired of digging ditches and working on building sites. When the opportunity to operate his own parcel delivery franchise presents itself he eagerly signs up, sells the wife’s car so that he can purchase a brand new white van, and starts running from pillar to post to make sure he meets his all-important delivery targets.
Penned by frequent Loach collaborator Paul Laverty and set in the gritty northeastern city of Newcastle, Sorry We Missed You depicts Ricky’s new job as an endless gauntlet of parking tickets, incorrect addresses, rude customers, out-of-order lifts, and — worst of all — Maloney (Ross Brewster), the self-described bastard in charge of the parcel depot. Maloney isn’t interested in Ricky’s problems or those of his family — including zero-hour contract social worker Abby (Debbie Honeywood) and shoplifting teenage son Seb (Rhys Stone).
Miss work for van repairs? That’s a £100 fine and a sanction. Have to visit the police station because your child’s in custody? Another £100, another sanction: one more sanction and you’ll lose your franchise, your route, and oh by the way — if your scanner is lost or damaged, it’ll cost you a thousand quid to replace it.
Sorry We Missed You has been subtitled for American consumption, but despite its Geordie and Mancunian accents, they’re not really necessary. Loach and Laverty’s latest communique about the inequities of late-stage capitalism couldn’t be any clearer, and no one will struggle to understand its message.
Claes Bang and Mick Jagger deliver in ‘The Burnt Orange Heresy’
Based on hardboiled author Charles Willeford’s novel of the same name, The Burnt Orange Heresy (opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday) is a finely crafted slice of suspense with an excellent cast.
Danish actor Claes Bang delivers a thoroughly convincing English accent as James Figueras, a down on his luck London art critic hired by wealthy collector Cassidy (Mick Jagger) to help him obtain his great white whale: the latest work of reclusive artist Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland). Debney isn’t interested in sharing his work with the world; Figueras must figure out a way to pry a piece out of the artist’s hands.
Having sullied his career prospects by embezzling from a previous employer, Figueras seems well-suited to the task. Director Giuseppe Capotondi is also a good fit for his task – relocating the source material from Florida to northern Italy, he’s delivered the best Willeford screen adaptation since Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter (1974).
‘Brightness’: A magical realist examination of a father-son relationship
Finally, director Souleymane Cissé’s 1987 feature Yeelen (Brightness) is a magical realist examination of a decidedly strained father-son relationship, and features some stunning location footage of the West African nation of Mali. I wasn’t previously familiar with Cissé’s work, but Brightness (screening at 7p.m. on Thursday, March 12 as part of the series ‘Afterimage: Souleymane Cissé‘) serves as an impressive introduction – and the director will be on hand for the entire series!