Sorry We Missed You
Sorry We Missed You (opens March 4 in New York and March 6 in Los Angeles)
Now 83, legendary British director Ken Loach is still making vital, angry films about ordinary people caught in the vise of merciless market or governmental forces. His latest is a merciless dissection of the modern gig economy: thinking it will be a better way to earn money, Ricky decides to buy a van and become a parcel delivery driver, but soon discovers that not only is the job difficult but that his home life—his wife Abbie and teenage son Seb and daughter Liza Jane have their own issues at work and school—is turning into a shambles. Loach observes this family’s mounting problems with enormous sympathy and thoroughness; Paul Laverty’s trenchant script is unafraid to linger on tender or even sentimental moments. As usual in Loach films, the performances by a cast of unknowns—Kris Hitchen as Ricky, Debbie Honeywood as Abbie and Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor as their kids—ring with truthfulness.
The Dardennes' Young Ahmed
Young Ahmed (in theaters)
The Belgian Dardenne brothers’ latest is another depiction of a protagonist in crisis, but with a twist: Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi), a Muslim teen living in a Belgian city with his family, has been radicalized by a local imam. He tells his mother and sister how to follow the Torah (there is no father present), and he’s especially fixated on his female teacher, whom he attacks with a knife. The Dardennes film all this with their customary rigor, and although several sequences ring disturbingly true—like his conflicted feelings when he spends time with a (non-Muslim) girl, Louise (Victoria Bluck), at the farm he is assigned to by his social worker—other times the lack of context robs the filmmakers of plausibly presenting Ahmed’s radical beliefs and actions. This is especially true of a contrived ending—when Ahmed is, almost literally, paralyzed by his radicalism him—that is painfully literal.
Tuppence Middleton in Disappearance at Clifton Hill
Disappearance at Clifton Hill (in theaters and on demand)
Set in Niagara Falls (the Canadian side), Albert Shin’s creepy but unsatisfying drama centers on Abby, who returns to her hometown many years after witnessing, at age 9, the abduction of a young boy by a suspicious-looking couple. As she takes over the family-run motel, she tries to piece together what might have happened, but since she has a reputation of not telling the truth, she doesn’t get much outside help. There’s a surfeit of atmosphere, as Shin deftly contrasts the glitz of the touristy Niagara Falls with the more rundown sections of the town, which becomes a believable setting for the shadowy memories and characters conjured up by what Abby witnessed long ago. But even Tuppence Middleton’s forceful presence as Abby and Canadian director David Cronenberg as a willful conspiracy theorist can’t compensate for half-hearted plot twists and a dull denouement.
Zoey Deutch in Buffaloed
Buffaloed (in theaters and on demand)
A young woman decides to get a job in the supposed debt-collecting capital of the world, Buffalo (4 straight Super Bowl losses, snow storms, and now debt-collecting?), in Tanya Wexler’s spotty but funny character study, bolstered by the energetic Zoey Deutch as the enterprising Peg, who skirts the law as long as she can, but must deal with her football-loving mother (an amusing Judy Greer), the young detective she’s seeing (Jermaine Fowler) and the competitors who don’t take kindly to her incursions into their shady territory. It’s sympathetic to the people who live in the margins, and Wexler and writer Brian Sacca—who’s from Western New York—nail the small-city vibe in moments like Peg hawking counterfeit Bills tickets on gameday.