Scourge of Conservative British government policies, Ken Loach, now in his 84th year, comes up with another cracker, one which may well turn out to be his final film. A laughter-free zone, it's as intense and heart-rending as anything he's given us, on a par with his previous, widely well-regarded film, 'I Daniel Blake' (2016). And like that one, this is also set in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
It deals with a family struggling to survive in the era of the 'gig' economy. Where our current government regularly trumpets how it's bringing down unemployment, patting itself on the back with no mention as to how those 'in work' have to hold down two, sometimes three, jobs simultaneously because they are so poorly paid, with no job security at all, working on zero-hour 'contracts', and not knowing whether they'll be employed one hour to the next, never mind from day to day. And with millions countrywide, including some working, now having to rely on free hand-outs from food banks just to survive, that is the state we're now in.
In this film we see a family of four - parents (Kris Hitchin and Debbie Honeywood, both delivering most effecting performances) with their rebellious teenage son (Rhys Stone) and 11-year old daughter (Katie Proctor). The family is already heavily in debt to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds when the unemployed father takes on a job as parcel deliverer, having to buy a white van at his own expense, and any cases of deliveries not made on time (a schedule so tight that he has to wee into a plastic bottle so as not to lose one minute) and any damage or mishaps, even if not his own fault, to come out of his own modest pay. He has to work 14-hour days with no breaks, no days off - or he'll be sacked. Meanwhile, the mother is an itinerant social care worker, having had to surrender her necessary car so that her husband could buy the van, so she's reduced to having to use the bus to get from client to client, all of advanced age in various states of health deterioration. including dementia, some regularly soiling themselves - helping them eat, dress, wash, get to the toilet etc.
While they're both trying to hold down their precarious jobs their son increases their worry load significantly - truancy from school, painting graffiti with pals, getting into fights, shoplifting.....But their little daughter, not yet at rebellious age, is sympathetic and supportive to her struggling parents.
It's the father, with the more risky employment, who is, perhaps understandably, the more volatile of the parents, while his wife is the solid, more reliable one, though she does 'lose it' at least once, and very publicly.
It's a grim film with the family quartet at the centre hardly able to be bettered in acting terms. There's no resolution at the end, just fading from off the screen in an emotionally charged situation, which seems appropriate as we're in the thick of difficulties for many thousands, even millions, of families right now.
I wish Ken Loach had yet a further 20 years or more in him. His films are always thought-provoking. However the legacy he is going to leave us with, especially in social commentary terms, will be hard to be rivalled.
A very moving film, though maybe not one to be watched when you're feeling low and need your mood lifting!.............7.5.
(IMDb.............7.8 - Rott. Toms.......Not available )
2 hours ago