Reliably thought provoking stuff from Ken Loach
11 November 2019
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

Before the 2008 financial crash, Ricky (Kris Hitchen) and Abbie Turner (Debbie Honeywood) had saved up to buy their own property, but ever since have been living in rented accommodation, with their kids, Seb (Rhys Stone) and Lisa Jane (Katie Proctor.) Ricky takes the bold move to try and establish some independence again, and moves into the self employed market, working as a courier for a parcel company. However, he has actually entered the gig economy, with no guaranteed work, penalties if he misses days and a 'tracker' marking his every move. With Abbie in similarly precarious employment as a carer, their family life and well-being begins to disintegrate.

Although now in the winter of his life and career, and thus least personally affected by the modern day trials and tribulations faced by those of this generation, it's very telling that it is once again the now 83 year old director Ken Loach who has been galvanized into shining a spotlight on the scourge of the current trend of zero hours contracts and the uncertainty and unsustainability they bring. It's hard to believe that a more personal, impassioned cry couldn't come from a younger, more maturing director, but then, maybe there just is no-one to rival the authentic, affecting touch he brings.

Loach once again saturates his film with a gritty, raw realism, that very unforgivingly zooms in on his characters, and the rough, real world they inhabit. There's an odd spark of comic relief from the characters, sharing some coarse humour that reflects the lives they lead, but otherwise it's very much a film to inform and raise awareness, rather than entertain, and so it will struggle to find acceptance from a mainstream audience, much like Loach's previous I, Daniel Blake (and probably every other film he's made), who just want to chew their popcorn and lap up the latest Avengers film.

This is an unflinching depiction of a real life family, the sort of people you might see at work every day, facing a present day crisis that is affecting millions. As some other reviewers have noted, at times it seems like the main character is facing a relentless barrage of bad luck that stretches believability, but then Loach can only focus on one protagonist, and so must cram in everything he needs to. It's still admirable (and, as I say, telling) that he still appears to be the only one who wants to try and shine a light on this kind of thing. ****
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