It's a lonely experience, driving a long distance alone at night, with no-one to talk to. For Ivan Locke in 2013's Locke, it's a lonelier experience because he does have people to talk to--his wife Katrina, who's leaving him; Bethan, a woman he had a one night stand with who's going into labour; his boss, who wants to fire him; his sons, who can't understand why he's not home watching football; and his subordinate at work who's up the creek without a paddle without Ivan. An entire film set inside a car with one visible actor, the film is almost an academic exercise and yet it is genuinely effective.
There are other characters in the film but they're only voices on the speaker phone. Ivan (Tom Hardy) also talks to his deceased father whose presence I found to be suggested by two headrest supports that look like eyes.
I don't know if that was intended or if Ivan was meant to be talking to an empty seat but it was nicely eerie. Ivan was the unintended child resulting from his father's indiscretion and, as he explains to the phantom, he's keen not to repeat that mistake. Though he does stress rather awkwardly at times that he doesn't know Bethan (Olivia Colman) even as he tries to comfort her while she's in labour. She complains that waiting for him is like "waiting for Godot" he's taking so long. He doesn't get it and she becomes angry at having slept with someone who doesn't share her passions.
Ivan's wife, Katrina (Ruth Wilson), also reveals a lack of sympathy with Ivan's priorities when he reveals to her that he's still trying to make sure a crucial construction job goes off without a hitch even though driving to London for Bethan means he won't be there for the job in the morning and he's going to be fired.
I rather liked the film's attention to Ivan's construction job. I loved that Ivan's sense of honour is so heartfelt that he wants to see the job done properly regardless of whether he's going to be rewarded. How often do we see that kind of work ethic in film, particularly for something as lacking in glamour as pouring concrete? It's really refreshing.
Director Steven Knight keeps things visually interesting by playing with lens focus, different lighting from passing cars, and camera angles, the ride never becomes monotonous even as the stifling feeling of being locked, if you will, in a car when so much of Locke's life is in critical condition comes across quite well. More than anything, though, it's Tom Hardy's performance that sells it as a man very earnest about doing what he sees as the right thing even though he has the nagging worry there are aspects about his life he's failed to examine properly.