Loach delivers a sensitive portrayal of cash-strapped family's struggles
Film review: Sorry We Missed You (15), 7.5/10
Shopping on the high street continues to experience a steady decline as online retailers woo more of our hard-earned cash.
However, there are hidden costs to the consumer nirvana of casually swiping or tapping a finger to complete everyday purchases.
The battle for profits has shifted from storefronts to the roads where couriers fiercely compete for corporate accounts with GPS-tracked drivers, same-day and next-day delivery, and the promise of hourly slots so customers know when to be at home to sign for a parcel.
Consumers are kings or queens and a small army of men and women do our bidding on traffic-clogged streets where every second counts towards performance targets.
Director Ken Loach and long-time screenwriter Paul Laverty refuse to turn a blind eye in a gritty slice-of-life drama, which confidently delivers inner turmoil and desperation to a married couple in Newcastle upon Tyne.
In many ways, Sorry We Missed You is a companion piece to the award-winning 2016 film I, Daniel Blake, exploring the intolerable pressure on hard-working families trapped in a vicious and unremitting cycle of long work hours for minimum pay.
Misery has always enjoyed Loach's company and there are some desperately bleak moments here.
Yet Laverty finds glimmers of joy in the gloom, like a father and daughter bonding on a delivery route or a family curry night where the man of the house bullishly orders the hottest dish because, 'Vindaloo separates the men from the boys!'
Ricky (Kris Hitchen) and wife Abby (Debbie Honeywood) are barely keeping their heads above water as they provide for belligerent teenage son Seb (Rhys Stone) and younger daughter Lisa Jane (Katie Proctor).
Despite Abby's misgivings, Ricky sells the family car to invest in a delivery truck franchise that could turn his fortunes around.
Long hours and penalties for late delivery of online orders keep Ricky on the road, while Lisa Jane is forced to take the bus to carry out her duties as a caregiver in the local community.
When Seb plays truant to spray paint graffiti with friends, the fabric of family life tears at the seams and Ricky and Abby are faced with agonising choices.
'I never thought it would be this difficult,' laments Ricky.
Sorry We Missed You confirms Loach as a socially and politically conscious standard bearer for the working class, who believes in the power of cinema to prick consciences and meet inequality with fiery rhetoric.
Hitchen and Honeywood are superb as frazzled parents, struggling to dig themselves out of debt at the expense of precious time with their children.
Dramatic tension intensifies in the film's final 15 minutes when two generations violently butt heads and looking back in anger could distract from safely navigating the road ahead.