Hoping that self-employment through gig economy can solve their financial woes, a hard-up UK delivery driver and his wife struggling to raise a family end up trapped in the vicious circle of this modern-day form of labour exploitation.
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Ricky and his family have been fighting an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash. An opportunity to wrestle back some independence appears with a shiny new van and the chance to run a franchise as a self employed delivery driver. It's hard work, and his wife's job as a carer is no easier. The family unit is strong but when both are pulled in different directions everything comes to breaking point.
I saw a preview of this film at HOME in Manchester on 1st October. Yet again Ken Loch and scriptwriter Paul Laverty have told the kind of story about working class life that nobody else thinks important enough to tell.
It follows a family with the conventional ambition of wanting to buy their own house. But for this they need to earn more. The husband Ricky buys into what he thinks is an opportunity to become self employed as a delivery driver and be his own boss. But he asks his wife Abby to make a sacrifice to enable him to afford his own van and this reduces her own scope for getting work. He soon finds that the opportuity is really a trap. He has entered the gig economy where there is no guarantee of work, people who take sick leave get fined, and the delivery company drives its staff into the ground in order to stay ahead in a cut throat world of competition with its competitors. The relentless nature of the work has a damaging effect on the family's relationships.
There is no happy ending - what Ken Loach film ever has one? - but there is nothing predictable in the story and the dramatic pace doesn't flag. As he often does, the director has used new actors and at a few points early on in the film their lack of experience jars just a little. But overall the performances are convincing. The film makers clearly did their research into the gig economy and its vicious and ultimately unsustainable working environment, and what happens to the family in the story is completely believable, and disturbing.
My main criticism is that, in Ken Loach's most recent films, none of his characters show any agency. It would have been heartening, just for once if his characters had shown some of the initiative of the real life Deliveroo and Uber drivers, who formed workplace unions and wrung fairer treatment and conditions out of their employers.
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