Photograph above by Joss Barratt and Sixteen Films
Sorry We Missed You (BAFTA nominated for outstanding British film of the year) is Ken Loach and Paul Laverty’s latest heartbreaker, this time following a working-class family through the Tory gig economy hell.
Despite working themselves to the bone, loving parents Ricky (Kris Hitchen) and Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) struggle to provide even the basics for their two children, Seb (Rhys Stone) and Liza (Katie Proctor) who are thus neglected but ironically due to the moral values the Conservative Party claim to stand for…
This family is exploited. And like so many real-life, working-class families in Britain today the Turners would be far better off on benefits than suffer the abuse of an economy fixed to benefit the few.
For his affecting portrayal of Ricky, an overworked, undermined and near-defeated every man, Kris Hitchen was nominated for best actor at the British Independent Film Awards. Kris kindly explores his character’s psychological landscape with @oliverwilliamstherapy.
Without giving too much of the plot away, in the film Ricky hopes that by accepting a self-employed role as a delivery driver he will pull his family out of financial hardship. Though Ricky quickly finds himself in a frying-pan-fire scenario with dire consequences for his own wellbeing and his family’s happiness.
Oliver: Kris, when I watched Sorry We Missed You I was moved to tears; at one scene I was sobbing and as I walked home I found myself grateful that such a down-to-earth story would be given the big-screen treatment. It’s been months and there’s not been a day since where the movie hasn’t been on my mind.
What did you feel drove Ricky to stay in such an abusive work situation, causing him even more anxiety, exhaustion and heartbreak?
Kris: Ricky’s so subservient it’s frustrating but it’s all about his family. He wants to support his wife and kids and he’ll literally go through anything to do it. It’s also a case of ‘nobody wants to be seen as weak.’ No matter what happens to him he’ll still get up and go in the next day, even if it kills him.
Oliver: I desperately wanted Ricky to quit his job but at the same, watching him, I couldn’t help but feel I’d get back in that van and go in. Why is that?
Kris: Ricky’s an extremely well-created character who’s easy to empathise with. Paul saw to it in the writing that Ricky shares the same worries that every husband, man, father in the UK goes through. We also did a lot of pre-production work and Ken as a director wants to know about you and where you’re coming from. So that when it comes out on screen it’s authentic.
Oliver: For me, the most bitter-sweet scenes are when Ricky takes Liza to work just so they could spend time together. Beyond understanding that you were father and daughter, I felt that you were. And that you were teaching her to have a sense of fun but in order to get through life rather than live it? How did you achieve the realism?
Kris: I think that everyone performed with honesty, and while good acting starts with self-reflection it also has to come from the heart. So on set, the script was drip-fed to us. This helped because it necessitated a degree of spontaneity.
But it’s also that Ken and Paul lead an audition process that was collaborative, and got us all together, to begin with. After Debbie was hired to play Abbie we then went on to choose our kids, who in a sense also chose us.
As different actors auditioned, Ken and Paul would often stand back as if to see what would happen between us. We’re still a close family in the sense that we care about each other. We ate together and played together, we wanted to be together. It was a great experience.
Oliver: Knowing that I care greatly about male mental health and that many men will identify with Ricky… and that you know him intimately and that your portrayal of him clearly comes from a place of love. If Ricky were your friend, what would you say to him? How would you try to help him?
Kris: I would tell Ricky he needs to be more selfish… He puts everyone before himself and it doesn’t help. Eventually, he crumbles and ends up being the worst possible version of himself, albeit for a little while until it comes out that Abbie’s father was abusive. When she says to him “you’re just like my Dad” I think it hurts but in the right way.
Another frustrating thing about Ricky is that he’s a people pleaser. He wants to please everyone but you just can’t. I’d tell him that not everybody likes you, and that’s alright.
Oliver: As a therapist, something I’m very aware of in my client work is that we all bring our own frame of reference to every situation. Actors are artists with emotion so I have to ask, what did you bring to Ricky?
Kris: My past life was as a plumber though I had always wanted to be an actor since being a kid. In 2014 I had some life coaching just days before my 40th birthday at a retreat. I needed to go because I was heavily depressed and felt lost. It was that week that made me decide I had to do something and being told I was enough and worth something kick-started the change.
It was still hard at times with all the rejection from the audition process, but I was able to pick myself up and carry on, hungry for that one yes that I now felt I deserved… And 5 years later this is the result.
If you want to do something with your life you have to do everything in your power to do it otherwise your life won’t ever feel complete, and I couldn’t stand for not giving it my all. And how could I lose? Nothing could ever make me feel as low as did in 2014 so everything moving forward was always going to be a bonus.
Oliver: Kris, thank you so much for being so open and giving to this interview.
Sorry We Missed You is a movie from people who care, authentically and deeply about others. It is a commercial success because it is empathy-driven, connecting with audiences all over the world.
It is a movie that invites reflection and change, on an individual as well as social level. As a therapist, I now recommend it to male clients who are overworked and stressed to the point of burn out, and who need to make room for themselves.
Kris Hitchen then is a credit to this work. He makes Ricky real by bringing his authentic self as well as his performance skills to the role. Kris does Ricky justice and the men he represents a great kindness.
There will always be big-budget movies on at the cinema, but rarely are there genuine cultural events… do not miss Sorry We Missed You…