Locke (London Film Festival 2013)
I’ve read some articles about a growing trend for watching films on a mobile phone. I don’t fancy it myself, although it’s tempting to save Locke up for a long car journey for a real sensory experience. This is as Locke itself is an 85-minute drive with Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) and no one else on screen, except for voices on a speakerphone.
The early word on Locke was that it was riveting – a term that, combined with Hardy’s casting, caused me to expect Phone Booth on four wheels. Actually, the confined gimmick produces a surprisingly touching drama about a man on the brink of losing his established life. Rather than real life taxi journeys when you wish the racist taxi driver would stop ranting, Ivan is likeable, mostly through the angst on Hardy’s face. An early phone call reveals he’s on the way to a hospital; although married with children, he is caught up by a case of infidelity from nine months before.
Just by reading the plot, I initially questioned whether the protagonist had to be in a car – could he not take a train? People use phones on buses all the time, don’t they? But by stepping on the pedal himself, there’s a bitter poignancy in Ivan physically moving away from the family home, unsure if he’s allowed to return. What he believed to be an honourable trip begins to splutter amid voluntary self-destruction, made worse by hearing his children on speakerphone.
The action is understandably limited by its concept. You might miss the tears rolling down Ivan’s face, but Locke would also work as a radio play (heard on earphones while commuting). Another subplot involves work commitments and cement, which isn’t given time to set; even if the participants aren’t visible, some strands can’t escape their cliches. Otherwise, Locke is mostly an effective minimalist take on the worst motorway trip to feature no traffic.
Locke is part of the London Film Festival’s “Journey” strand. Screening information can be found here.
85 mins approx