Locke ★★★★

LOCKE (Steven Knight, Britain, 2014, 8)

You have to “buy into” a gimmick movie, pretty much a priori. In Locke, it’s that the camera, for all practical purposes, never leaves a car where Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is driving and taking the phone calls that will upend his life. Hardy is the only person you see, though you hear the other end of his speaker-phone conversations; it’s pure “canned theater” that could also work rather well as a radio play. Because he’s driving straight through, Hardy also is limited in his movement. Everything therefore depends on his face and voice—and Hardy is magnificent, delivering an early performance-of-the-year candidate. He juggles various personae in his various calls—husband confessing adultery to his wife; father whose son is eager to watch the big game with him; a man whose barely-known and barely-sane paramour is calling about her birth pangs; a boss trying to walk a borderline-drunk subordinate through that job. In a very good non-native’s Welsh accent, Hardy almost never raises his voice, but communicates anger by being short and abrupt. His voice keeps (barely) its social face, while has actual face gets more burnished and flustered by the moment. And it changes with various people as their level of knowledge changes. Hardy plays a rising Everyman of humble origins whose sense of probity and rightness is everything to him, even over a one-night stand with a woman giving birth to his child but whom he will not tell he loves (“I barely know you”). The only contrivance is that Hardy sometimes talks aloud to his father, though some folk are wont to do this on lonely late-night car journeys. The metaphors and parallelisms among the stories get a little heavy, and you really so have to enjoy watching Hardy, as he’s the whole show. But he puts on a show.
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First published at SLC Weekly: www.cityweekly.net/utah/blog-19-10366-sundance-2014-day-10-reviews.html