HBO Max’s ‘Locked Down’ Makes You Feel Even More Helpless

T.S. Lowry

Yet ‘Locked Down’ manages to turn a shared nightmare into a heist movie.

Photograph by Susie Allnutt/HBO Max

It was only a matter of time before movies and shows about the pandemic hit streaming services.

I don’t watch every show and movie. I’m sure there have been other fictional stories with the coronavirus pandemic as the setting. But HBO Max romantic comedy and heist movie Locked Down is the first film I’ve seen that involves the pandemic. (I haven’t watched Songbird.) I was hoping Locked Down would help me get through what’s hopefully the final stretch of covid, but it only made me feel more sad and miserable. As if I needed to feel even more helpless.

Locked Down features some rough stuff — and a true to its nature Hollywood ending. A broken up couple continue to live with each other because there’s no other place they can go during the pandemic. While watching the two main characters, it’s tough for me not to think… this isn’t my pandemic.


In March 2020, I decided to wait out the pandemic. Taking as little risk as possible. Ordering my food and supplies online, which, yes, is a privilege. Having asthma, which I do, isn’t. Especially during a worldwide virus that’s known to prey on victims’ breathing systems.

I live in Los Angeles, a city that has been sheltering in place for longer than I care to keep track of. I haven’t dined out at a restaurant since the pandemic started in 2020. Yet that doesn’t mean I haven’t ordered from my favorite restaurants. But I’m not taking any risks. I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to get my roommate sick. I don’t want our families to, as I’ve been saying all along, digitally bury us in a worst-case scenario.


Locked Down follows a couple, Linda Thurman (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton Riggs (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who are locked down in their home. But they do leave the house on occasion. Paxton, after all, can’t do his job from home. I believe Paxton went to the grocery store once. And the heist subplot largely takes place outside of the house.

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been to the grocery store three times. The most daring thing I’ve done during this never-ending saga? I moved six minutes down the road, from Studio City to North Hollywood. I was close to the movers, which, in my opinion, is a big risk. Yet less of a risk than moving halfway across the country.

I suppose I also come into contact with drivers for food delivery services because Southern California apartments are apparently harder to break into then, say, the United States Capitol. So I go outside for the food handoff, a heist-like event in its own unique way.

Locked Down isn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, a sentiment I usually don’t write about as all my reviews/essays typically feature how happy a movie makes me feel or how well I relate to specific characters. Yet the film managed to force the characters together at the end. And such is the nature of rom-coms, a genre that routinely makes a couple out of two unlikely people. Don’t believe me? Linda is a rising executive. Paxton is a former drug dealer and ex-convict who’s been furloughed from his job as a delivery-truck driver. That’s not all these characters are (Paxton is enamored by poetry), but it’s the characteristics the creators continuously force-feed the audience.

But alas, Locked Down woke me up from my coma, simulation, or whatever this past year was.

As I watch the characters connecting to never-ending video calls, and being perpetually bored, restless, and unhappy, something clicked: I’ve been sheltering in place for almost a year.

What’s going on? Why are people still dying? Where’s the help? How much longer do we have to continue to say we can’t wait to see our friends and family? Will we ever get to eat inside a restaurant again? Are we actually living in a simulation?

I understand I’ve taken more precautionary measures than most, but I also thought life would go back to “normal” by now. And L.A. is getting ravaged by the virus. Apparently, one in three Los Angeles County residents have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic. My bubble consists of two other people and a dog…

I get so irritated when people tell me to visit them because the virus isn’t as bad where they live. I would still have to Uber to and from the airport, and get on a plane with people who aren’t taking the virus that seriously — they’re traveling during an undeniably deadly time.

Not everyone can wait this period out like me. I’m an introvert who works from home. But this pandemic isn’t clearing up. Younger people aren’t concerned about dying and believe they’ll be asymptomatic if they do get sick. But don’t they realize that’s the death-dealing concoction for spreading this disease? People who don’t know they have the virus … spread it because they don’t know they have the virus… And then there are the people who refuse to wear masks. And then there’s the “leadership” of it all.

Anyway, this “review” isn’t supposed to be about my little world. And people will do, no matter how high the stakes, whatever they want to do.


Locked Down is mostly about a couple sheltering in place. Similar to the pandemic, the creation of this film proves that humans are mind-numbingly impatient. Locked Down is a movie about the pandemic. The creators couldn’t even wait for the pandemic to end before unleashing the movie on the streaming service world. As people continue to get sick and the death toll rises — we don’t know how or when this is going to end. Yet, by all means, release this movie while humanity is stuck in this purgatory.

Not only are we forced to live it out in real life, but now we get to live it out via many people’s only escape from reality: movies and shows. (Yes, I understand everyone still needs to make a living and some people enjoyed the timing of this film.)

I typically enjoy relating to the characters on the screen. Even if it’s me wishfully thinking I have similar traits to a make-believe person who’s nothing like me. But there’s a reason why I don’t want to watch a struggling writer who never meets his potential and continues to live out his days in poverty. Without a happy ending or resolution, that story is depressing. I know because it was my story for most of my twenties.

Regardless of how this movie makes you feel, Locked Down manages to morph a shared nightmare into a heist movie. Now that’s Hollywood for you, baby.

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Just a guy who likes to cruise the aisles at the local 7-Eleven

Los Angeles, CA

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