How Locke Tackles Masculinity
A look into a microcosm of repression.
Driving can be very meditative. The long roads, the simple task, the quiet; all compound to create a space that allows for clear and retrospective thought.
Locke is about Ivan; a construction site project manager who is driving to north London to meet his mistress in the hospital; where she will be giving birth to his son. All the while, Ivan is taking back to back (to back) phone calls from:
- Ivan’s co-worker who is now responsible for “the largest concrete pour in European history” given Ivan’s absence
- Ivan’s wife, who has just recently discovered his infidelity
- Ivan’s son who is attempting to catch him up on the current football game
- Ivan’s boss, forced to fire him over the phone call triathlon
The straight forward assessment of this film is simple: Ivan is a man taking responsibility for his actions, whether he likes it or not. However, after a few separate viewings, an underlying theme comes to the forefront: masculinity.
Ivan Locke inhabits what he works with: concrete. He’s a solid guy; a man’s man. Tactful, calculated, and calm. He believes his life is as malleable as the concrete he handles and while the reactions and repercussions of others per his actions are out his control; his focus is concrete.
That focus is illustrated in his ability to continue his work while driving; unphased by the limitations of his BMW. Yet, as the drive continues, we see Ivan begin to slip. As his eyes gaze into the rearview mirror, his past seems to be creeping upon him.
Like Father Like Son
“What is it they say, ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’? Well, that’s where you’re wrong!” — Locke (2014)
Ivan's transfixion on the rearview mirror represents his longing to rewrite the past; a looking glass into his previous life.
As he begins to ramble to his deceased father about his inherently stressful predicament, the repressed frustration, and hatred felt by Ivan are pushed to the forefront. These monologues work to develop Ivan's character in an expositional way; but also surface a unique question: is talking to your dead dad, normal?
In short, no.
Essentially, Ivan is dealing with not becoming his father.
The parallels cast between Ivan and his deceased father are told through Ivan's perspective. While his father was seemingly absent, lazy, and weak, Ivan is solid; transfixed on his work, responsibilities, and accomplishments. This transfixion could also be viewed as Ivan's coping mechanism; an absorption of work that ultimately led to his adultery. From this perspective, Ivan’s repression of emotional baggage has led to a trickle-down effect in his life:
Ivan’s disdain for his father has led to a relationship with his work that is time-consuming, which led to his affair, leading to the loss of his job, and inevitably the disjointing of his family dynamic; all of which compounding to a result that puts Ivan in the same category as his late father.
A popular theory found at the end of the film debates whether or not Ivan goes to the hospital or not; given that his car blinker is set to turn right, and he turns left.
In the end, it seems that the sins of the father carry on, and Ivan pushes forward to find a new life; a concrete life.