w. & d. Steven Knight, 2013
I found this a very moving film. Of course it does move, or what passes for that these days, in that it is the story of a drive and a driver, Ivan Locke played by Tom Hardy. We see no other actors and only really see him behind the wheel, though we hear others in his carphone conversations, they play a huge and very vivid part. I’ll come back to thoughts on this situation later.
Locke we learn has just learned the lady, Bethan, who is carrying his child has had her waters burst prematurely at seven months. This would be difficult for anyone – it is so for her as she has no other friends. It is difficult for Locke as he is in the middle of site managing a huge construction project and an especially important job tomorrow. Its also difficult as he is married to someone else, has only been unfaithful once and has been unable to broach this subject yet at home. He is clear in the film that he feels he still loves his wife, we don’t doubt it I think. But he has to make a decision – how to act, and then we watch him follow this through.
His journey then has three strands – problem solving and crisis managing his work situation (whilst probably losing his job), approaching his wife, Katrina, with the news of the situation (and in the process interacting with his two sons) and finally supporting Bethan.
In watching the movie it is tempting to think of this a a simply masculine approach – the film seems to me to ask lots of questions of modern masculinity. I think many men find hard to act on such a situation until they have to do so. I think it is also important to bear in mind that his approach is framed by the fact he is driving at the same time. You might also say his approach is framed by how he has to work, solving problems, often very precisely and how in fact his life as a modern man asks him to approach it in this matter of fact problem solving way. I think driving can have interesting affects on how we present things, how we think and speak. He’s also of course facing several crises at once, he cannot, and no one could, resolve these emotionally at this time, not least in this way.
How he does approach things we also learn is very guided by who he is — and the dynamic of who he is has a lot to do with the dynamic of his relationship with his father. We learn is father was largely absent and that when he did turn up Locke was not impressed with his demeanour, with him. His life, his personality, seems largely drive in reaction to this. It also seems to start to explain his actions. I noticed he also seems to have a cold, maybe that too heightens his feelings in that curious way colds can. As Locke drives and faces the situation he speaks (rants) to his father as though he is in the back seat — but perhaps he is also speaking to himself, we see him reflected at the same time. This crisis is tapping into a very personal psychological conflict – Locke is a little unwell physically, he is being tested to his limit psychologically.
For me he faces that – in effect he faces his demons, a minotaur at his centre. This is exceptional – and explains his need to act as he does. At one point he utters a prayer I found very moving – it seemed a prayer for wholeness and in doing so he taps into imagery of wholeness I think Jungians would recognise, a square, four entrances. Yet even as he does so apparently this is a little removed from a full recognition, the prayer is for his concrete pour tomorrow at least in that part. Though I think it is for more – I’m not sure how far he’d see that though, at least yet.
A huge theme in the film is his construction work – this concrete pour, the need for the foundations to be perfect (unlike his own, but which he may also wish to be perfect). I read themes of the place of organic, imperfect human beings in a world increasingly made concrete, hard and inflexible. This may apply physically but also for me in terms of relationships, social structures, the demand put on a person, on this man (which he is so good at meeting, usually).
It is also interesting he is driving and on a motorway, channelled towards a destination – though it is interesting where we see him get to. It spoke to me, a bit like the freeways in True Detective two of people travelling maybe towards a fate, once on the journey hard to choose other ways, surrounded by lots of others doing similar but not in touch with them. That seems very modern.
In a way the film is one long car crash of his life – I think literally of him driving having made his choice in the direction he does. I don’t like a lot of what he does. We see flashes of how he is driven by anger, perhaps narcissism in some ways. And yet I liked him very much. He is clearly well liked by others, respected, held with love even – and think that is apparent in how others speak to him. Though perhaps that is also related to needing his strength. I think the way he lives his life is part of how he has not come to have addressed this issue before, trapped again in a narrative of who he is (by himself, perhaps also by others). And to address this for him is to open his greatest fear, which drives his need to be such a good man. He is also clearly not a man without feeling for others, we see this on how others relate to him I am sure. He may be a man with some gaps in his feeling for himself, searching. Though we learn little of his relationship with the mother to be, I saw some signs that her character and situation may be one that resonated with some of the gaps in his own life. I think he may need some help to find any wholeness, and not least in relation it to himself, though what happens may throw him into having to address this (I hope — and not into further denial).
Where we have joined the film there is not a perfect outcome that will not hurt someone. I think I respect his decision. He seems to me to have honoured life in some way, and that may be the start of some growth, but we cannot be sure. I think there will be change. I think in a way he has tried to manage life, make it safe, keep it down. It is strange how life does not allow that and perhaps inevitable that it has shown itself in some way. In trying not to act like his father he is of course in some ways acting like him even in not doing so, perhaps that will open possibilities for some growth and recognitions in that relationship. It may not, will he lock down life in those ways again – some may react to see what he has done as simply selfish, out of his need to face these demons and a situation that he has in large part created. Perhaps there is a choice between a socially clear and chosen world and the world thrown up in its full reality and ambiguities – and perhaps the situation he faces in itself is a product of having tried to socially tidy the world into something manageable.
His name, Locke is interesting as in some ways he is locked down maybe, locked into who he is. I also saw a possibly magical way of reading it. What seemed to me to be his hope for wholeness also made me think of alchemy, a little – also interesting given his very material job.
It is a riveting film. I hadn’t had a lot of hope as it started but how it has offered so much. Tom Hardy is superb, I don’t know a lot of his work but this performance is wonderful. Some have commented on the camera work being too busy, but I felt it fitted the tone of the piece and how much he is dealing with and digesting. Well worth seeing and experiencing.
A. H / K. H-H (1 July 2018)
(edited for two typos and a comma, 1 July)