Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve really, truly, awfully and irrevocably messed up? And there’s no going back? And there are no good options remaining? How do you decide the way to navigate through the morass before you? Knowing that your answers may say more about you than your messing up in the first place?
Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a very successful construction manager in England , who enjoys a stalwart reputation as the man you want in charge when the concrete starts pouring. He takes pride in the way that he goes over every detail, from supplier content to requested road closings from local authorities. He’s been doing this for 9 years for the same company, so he even has a few tricks up his sleeve for when something unforeseen happens, like needing competent extra crew at the last minute (he knows some guy who owes him a favor). Ivan Locke is also a happily married man, for 15 years, and a family man, with two sons, whom he loves dearly, and enjoys rooting with them for their favorite “football” (soccer) team. In fact, this particular evening, his wife and sons are anxiously awaiting his arrival home so they can all watch the big game together. She’s already prepared the sausage and bought the beer to enjoy in front of the television. It sounds like just the kind of family togetherness evening he needs after a long day at the office, and on the eve of the “big pour” in the morning, where he’s supposed to manage an enormous foundation-laying for a new high-rise building.
But Ivan Locke is not going home. Not tonight. In fact, he’s on his way out of town. Because tonight he’s determined to be at the side of the woman who’s having his baby. No, he doesn’t love her. He’d worked with her on a dicey out-of-town project, and at its successful conclusion they were celebrating together, and well….it just happened. Afterwards, Ivan Locke went home and tried to pretend that it wouldn’t affect anything, but then she called to tell him she’s pregnant. And since she’s forty and single and childless, she’s determined to go through with it.
Ivan has just not been able to bring himself, before now, to tell his wife. He knows how devastated she will be, and he just hasn’t been able to steel himself to face her understandable hurt and anger. It’s been easy to postpone that moment of agonizing anguish, but now there’s no putting it off any longer. Ivan is determined that he’s going to be there for the birth of his child, because he doesn’t want to be like his Dad, the one who abandoned him and his mother when he was a baby.
In fact, some of the most dramatic scenes in the movie are when Ivan is cussing out his Dad as if he were in the back seat, when in fact his Dad has been gone for years. It’s a dynamic that almost all males will identify with----we carry the spirit of our fathers around with us wherever we go. We may or may not feel we’re on very good terms with that “ghost,” but we’re still in close relationship with it, either way. It both defines who we are and also defines who we’re determined not to be. Sometimes we can’t measure up to his expectations (and never will). And sometimes we’re exactly like him despite our best efforts to become better versions.
This small-scoped movie takes place entirely in “real time,” in Ivan’s car, on his way to the hospital, as he alternately talks to his hysterical paramour in labor, his beloved wife in anguish, his precious sons, his furious boss, and his frightened assistant, who absolutely does not want to wear the supervisor’s hat in the morning.
Well, sometimes we all have to do things we’d rather not do, and wish we could find a way out of doing. But something outside of us compels us, and though we know that things will never be the same again, still, we have to decide, in the end, who we really are. Not to everybody else. But to ourselves.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas