What we can learn from 'Locke'

The film Locke, from Steven Knight, shines by its simplicity. Only one character is on screen, driving alone. Before watching it, I initially thought it was a crime or investigation story. But it turned out it is a simple story of a man trying to right a wrong.

The characters

Before diving further, here is a quick recap of the characters:

- Ivan Locke: the protagonist
- Bethan: the pregnant woman
- Donal (colleague - his managee - ally, but gets stressed out and drinks)
- Gareth (colleague - his manager - antagonist when he fires Ivan)
- Katrina  (wife)
- Ivan and Katrina's 2 kids
- The projection of Ivan's father
- Cassidy
, who Ivan only talks to once, starts as antagonist but is easily converted.

What is unique to this film is that none of them is introduced visually. We only ever hear their voices. But it never gets confusing as they have either different emotional states or simply different speech styles.

Now, here is what I learned from analyzing it with MediaTag:

Threads are intertwined

Each story arc is told to the audience one small step at a time. There is rarely a huge amount of information in one go, and logical plot points are always mixed with emotional beats. This is very similar to how 12 Angry Men tells us the details of its story.

We could have had the scenes unfolding one after the other like this:
1 - Ivan explains his plan to his manager and gets fired
2 - Ivan confesses to his wife having cheated and she leaves him
3 - Ivan instructs Donal on how to save the construction site

But instead, those 3 major threads are all unfolding in parallel, step by step. This is a great and simple way to increase the tension progressively while keeping us hooked the whole way.

Several plot elements serve multiple purposes

1. The football game that is happening that evening:
- It is a device to get to know his relationship with the kids. He is a loved father, as they want their dad to come home to watch the match with them.
- It creates problems as some crucial colleagues are not available as they watch the game.

2. Cassidy initially refuses to help Ivan. That is until he remembers that he was the only construction manager who delivered paperwork ahead of schedule. This gives the audience both backstory on the protagonist as well as shows his strength of character.

3. The father, who is only present in Ivan's imagination, is a good way to:
- know why Ivan risks everything to see the baby
- is a good device to have him explain his motivations, as well as gets his emotions out
- gives us a relief from conversations happening only over the phone

Not only based on dialogs

Even though the film is very dialog based, it still finds a way to show thoughts in a visual way. For instance, in the first scene, at a crossroad, Ivan has to chose between going left as usual, or right to a new destination. This reminded me of Tony Zshou's essay on Snowpiercer.

And the end also finds a way to give us an open end, as we hear the baby crying over the phone. This is still sound based, like all dialogs, but carries only emotional weight.

So both the  opening and the closing of the film are the parts that differ from the rest of the film.

Some quotes I love

- Katrina: "The difference between never and once is the difference between good and bad."

- Donal: "Don't fucking threaten me"
- Ivan: "So it is cider that you're drinking"

- Ivan: "When I left the site, just over 2 hours ago, I had a job, a wife, a home. And now I have none of these things."

Try it yourself

As you can see in the timeline I created, I've tagged a moment for each dialog scene with a specific character. Each moment has a tag matching that character.

Try using the filter, and change which tags will be visible. For instance, when selecting
, only moments tagged with this character will be visible. This can give you an idea of how often this character was present in the story.

And you can do the same with any character:
. Note that the address in the browser updates every time you select a tag, which allows you to share that as a link easily. For instance, this link will already have
tag selected: https://mediatag.io/gui/items/85bb52bd-Locke-2013?moments_filter=katrina


Locke stands out from most film in form, function and also content. It is unique because it has only a single character, but remains very powerful. It is also impressive to have so much tension while not being a story about good versus evil, or thieves against cops. This is about normal people in a stressful and very relatable situation.

And if are interested to dig into this film further, the screenplay is available on MediaTag.

Are you interested to analyze films in a similar way? Try MediaTag today. It will allow you to take notes inside videos and organize them easily.