The Lock Charmer takes place in Buenos Aires during a period of time in which the city was covered in smoke. The smoke is so thick and oppressive that it reduces people to shells of themselves, only able to concentrate on eating and sleeping. Against this backdrop we are introduced to Sebastian, a locksmith, and his sort-of-kind-of girlfriend, Monica.
At the beginning of the film Monica tells Sebastian that she is pregnant, but is uncertain of who the father is, and uncertain about whether she wants to keep the child or not. In his spare time Sebastian is attempting to recreate a music box he found at an antique store using lock plates he cuts down and tunes. This provides the central metaphor for the film; Sebastian’s attempt to find order and meaning in a world that seems devoid of meaning. The old music box is broken and rusted and so plays the tune out-of-tune. Sebastian’s music box plays in tune, but some of the notes do not ring clearly, and the tune is muddled.
Just like the tune of the music boxes, and the city choked in smoke, Sebastian’s life is muddled. His father left when was a child, he is unsure of whether or not Monica’s child is his, unsure of their relationship, and unsure of how they should proceed. At work, Sebastian discovers that as he unlocks people’s doors, he also unlocks their secrets through prophetic words he is unable to control. Sebastian initially sees this as a curse, and is assaulted by one of his locksmith customers as a result of his prophetic word.
Eventually he uses his prophetic gift to gain clarity about his own life and learns that Monica’s child is his, and that his father left because he was unable to think of anyone else’s needs. As the smoke lifts from the city Sebastian and Monica are able to define their relationship and admit their love for each other. Sebastian closes the locksmith shop and begins selling the music boxes he makes. As the film ends we hear a tune playing clearly on a music box for the first time.
The Lock Charmer suggests that though the world may often seem to lack meaning, meaning can be found, or created, as we share life with the people we love. Certain notes on Sebastian’s music box are dulled, and the tune incomplete until he lets Monica into his life. The tune on his music box shows us the way Sebastian, through his relationship with Monica, is able, not only to find meaning in a meaningless world, but also to see the beauty that life has to offer.