Diane Ford [Michelle Monaghan] is a truck driver, who has a reputation for always delivering early. She’s just paid off her big rig when she gets what seems to be a nasty surprise: her ex-husband’s current flame drops of her eleven-year old son. Neither Diane nor Peter [Jimmy Bennett] is particularly thrilled by this. What is originally intended to be three week thing becomes more when Peter’s dad’s cancer worsens and the two face the prospect of being stuck with each other permanently.
Diane is not the most personable of characters. She drives a truck, smokes, drinks, has impersonal sex to scratch an itch and never lets anyone get close to her emotionally – not even her married best friend of four years, Runner [Nathan Fillion].
How non-maternal is Diane? Literally the day after Peter arrives, she is off on a run, dragging him with her. The entire trip is onerous for each and he causes her to be late for the first time – costing her the sizable on-time bonus she relies on. Between her seeming lack of empathy and love, and his self-centered obtuseness, we wonder if a ninety-minute movie can get them together in more ways than mere proximity.
Fortunately, this is an indie and not a Hollywood weepy, so the film remains true to the characters – which means no one is falling into big weepy hugs and teary avowals of becoming the best family ever. Instead, we see Diane realize that she needs to grow up – and that she has no real idea about that might be done. We also Peter begin to look for something in Diane – but he’s not sure about what, or how to find it.
Fillion plays Runner, a riff on the nice guy friend who’d like more – but is, instead, unable to get it because of his inability to commit. At some point, late in the film, it becomes apparent that Diane is going to put paid to his gentlemanly self.
Trucker was written and directed by James Mottern and he does a fine job of creating characters who feel real. He also knows about the small moments that turn a film from an amiable time-waster to something lasting. There are any number of such moments in Trucker, and Monaghan gets to play most of them – her final conversation with Runner being one of them; a scene between Diane and Peter in a field, early on, is another. The scenes between Diane and Peter’s father, Len [Benjamin Bratt] also stand out [they’re Bratt’s best work in some time].
Mottern’s characters are who they are. For all of them, change comes in baby steps – but that’s all you need to provide a faint spark of hope. Trucker is about real people and that faint spark of hope. It’s a wonderfully dry, perceptive film that deserves to be seen by a larger audience.
There were features on the screener I received.
Final Grade: A-