Here are four ways to think about Locke:
1. It's a concrete movie. Laced with hyper-specific construction terminology and discussions about the bureaucratic hell of acquiring road-closure permits, Locke is the best movie about concrete ever made. (Sorry, Dragged Across Concrete, which has very little concrete-specific content.) Though he's no one's idea of a healthy work-life balance poster boy, Ivan Locke is a man of strong ideals with an unwavering commitment to urban development and city-planning. Even after he gets fired from his job for driving to London, he stays on the phone with a lower-level employee (played by breakout Fleabag starAndrew Scott) because he believes in the symbolic power and metaphoric potency of tall-buildings. It's less of an ego-driven, Trump-like obsession and more of a selfless commitment to seeing a task through to its conclusion. Locke gets the job done.
2. It's a "night bus" movie. In the early 2010s, music message boards were briefly abuzz with discussions of an emerging micro-genre referred to as "night bus," which was named after a Burial track that evoked the rainy, contemplative mood of traveling in the UK late at night. In 2015, a Pitchfork review of a CFCF album described "night bus" as "midtempo, minimalist post-dubstep -- trip-hop." Though it's not about public transportation, Locke is an intriguing visual representation of the nebulous, hard-to-pin-down "night bus" aesthetic. Despite the rising stakes of the plot, there's an almost ASMR-like quality to Hardy's vocal delivery and the gold-ish lighting in the car evokes the hazy ambiance of a soothing drive. (Important distinction: Locke is also a "car movie" and not a "road movie.")
3. It's a fatherhood movie. From Serenity to Taboo to 2007's David Cronenberg-directed gangster drama Eastern Promises, Steven Knight's work is consumed with questions about filial responsibility. In his dealings with his wife (voiced by The Affair's Ruth Wilson), his two sons (the voices of Bill Milner and future-Spider-man Tom Holland), and the woman he had a brief affair with (the voice of The Favourite's Olivia Colman), Locke must constantly wrestle with his diverging commitments to his growing family unit. How can he remain a good father to his teenage children while also caring for his about-to-be-born son? Can he still be loyal to his wife after betraying her by being unfaithful? Will he care for the vulnerable and lonely mother of his new child without making false promises to her about his own feelings? Heavy stuff!
4. It's a Venom movie. OK, so Locke also works really well if you think of it as a part of the Expanded Venom universe. Ivan Locke doesn't sound like journalist-turned-crime-fighter Eddie Brock, the main character of Hardy's 2018 comic book blockbuster Venom, but he's at war with himself in a similar way. He's constantly being pulled in different directions; he's always fighting his darkest impulses and most base desires; he talks to himself all the time. Also, the presence of Holland as his son has to mean something, right? Locke works as Venom prequel and I can't be convinced otherwise.
Equipped with these four ways of seeing Locke, you are now ready to enjoy the movie at your leisure. Unlike Serenity, it's not a movie to watch with friends; instead, I recommend watching it alone late at night, possibly during a thunderstorm, to achieve the optimal viewing experience. If you don't immediately click with the film's ruminative mood or its slow-build pacing, give it some time. Like concrete itself, Locke takes time to settle. By the end, you'll realize the movie is perhaps sturdier than it appears.