Sorry we missed you

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Who has not received a note like this from the courier guys when you were not at home to receive a parcel addressed to them? And we have several news reports on food delivery boys and girls, speeding, meeting with accidents and collapsing. A few months back I happened to watch a one-hour programme on a popular Tamil Channel hosted by a celebrity anchor whose weekly programmes broadcast on Sundays has lifted the TRPs of the channel. More than two dozen delivery boys who ride their two wheelers across Chennai and people who order food on apps and lawyers participated in this programme that highlighted the vulnerability of the delivery boys.

But it is possible only for Ken Loach, in his usual no-punches-spared style, punctuate the exploitation and tyranny perpetrated on the British labour force, brimming with pride, “I have never been on dole” and seeking dignity for their work. In his earlier film, Daniel Blake, the carpenter was destroyed by a mindless welfare system that fails the needy when they most require support. In his brand new film SORRY WE MISSED YOU, the relentless campaigner for labour rights deals with the state of affairs of Delivery Men, the pressure they suffer and how it affects their family life.

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Ricky has done everything in his life – masonry, gardening, landscaping, plumbing – to earn a decent living for him and his family consisting of Abby, his wife who doubles as a home care nurse to make both ends meet, Seb, his son in his teens and a younger daughter Liza. Life is difficult as Ricky is not finding jobs in his line of work and decides to shift to delivering parcels. But it will involve getting his own van or paying a usurious daily hire of 65 Quids a day to the company. The job has no contract as he is called ‘a partner’ and no salary, as he will get ‘fees’ for every timely delivery.

But he has to pay fines for delays in deliveries, find an alternate driver if he is not able to work and pay heavily if the scanner/GPS tracker is lost or damaged. He may not have time to use the washroom and hence carries a bottle to piss. The pressure on him and colleague drivers is palpable. The wife has to sell away her car to pay for the van. She is in distress, as she has to take buses to visit her clients. Many times she misses the appointments. The son, bereft of attention from his parents misses his class, suspended from school and gets into problems with the police. Ricky is having a tough time from him. The daughter who holds together the family is the only saving grace.

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All hell breaks loose when Ricky is mugged, his scanner is broken to bits and the muggers steal a few parcels. He has to be treated and scanned for broken ribs. But he has no time to wait at the lab and the delivery hub boss calls him not to check his condition but to tell him how much he has to pay for fines and the scanner and berates him. Even Abby, generally under control of herself always, looses it and gives it back to the boss. Seb makes his peace with the father and is concerned for his condition. Poor Ricky, despite objections from his family sets out the next day for work in his van, eyes half shut with injury, disoriented due to pain. The sole concern is the debt on him and the amounts to pay for the fines and the scanner called ‘gun’.

Are we progressing or destroying ourselves without time and attention to our family and loved ones? Ken Loach and his long time pal, the script writer Paul Laverty hold up a mirror and a warning signal for the disintegrating family and society of the modern times.

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