I’ve never left a cinema where every single person was silent; still contemplating what they had experienced and the story they had shared. But that is what Loach has achieved here; a truly over-whelming, heart-breaking piece of cinema.
Loach is known for his imitable desire for social justice, having before targeted the brutality of the benefits system or the disregard for young people in this country. This time Loach picks up his long term collaborator Paul Laverty’s script and uses it to take aim at zero-hour contracts.
The film begins with Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen), an unemployed ex-builder selling his wife's (Debbie Honeywood) car to pay for a van in order to start employment at a freelance delivery service.
What ensues is a harsh lesson about the reality of zero-hours work; a form of employment where there is no obligation of the employer to provide minimum hours often also disregarding basic workers rights. With the false hope from his employer that Ricky will be the ‘master of his own destiny’ a series of events fall in place to prove this is just not true. It’s a story about a man striving for a better life for him and his family despite it seeming perpetually out of reach.
Filmed in and around Newcastle the simple almost documentary style filming finds the mundane beauty in the everyday. This is continued within the family, with their two children (Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor) struggling to cope the with effects of the insecure hours on their parents yet still seeming to find comedy and humanity in the cold unfeeling world around them. Laverty’s dialogue draws out the best performances from these young inexperienced actors, as always giving room for improvisation to add authenticity. The performances of Honeywood and Hitchen cannot be neglected though as they similarly were stunning; they were intimate performances that showed their character’s flaws and innermost struggles.
"This is a piece of art, however it offers so much than that"
The brilliance of this film lies in its simplicity, its ability to invite us into this family’s life and then manipulate this to deepen our well of sympathy for every family like the Turner’s. This is a piece of art, however it offers so much than that. I felt different leaving the cinema, I felt desolate yet emboldened by the power that everyday people have to overcome the darkest corner that they can be backed into.
Once again, Loach has spoken with a bold voice that demands to be heard, a voice that demands action to stop the desperate situations these families are in. This is an unsettling film that doesn’t shy away from holding us all grossly accountable for those who we live among. Next time a courier comes knocking will you ask them how they are?