Dir/scr. James Mottern, US, 2008, 90 minutes
The trucker in Trucker is a woman: Diane Ford (Monaghan). forced to take in her young son when her ex-husband Len (Bratt) is stricken with cancer. The 11-year-old whom she hasn't seen since he was a baby proves harder to handle than the 18-wheeler she drives to pay the bills. But even with some fine acting, this film can be a long tiring ride.
Truckers haven't been cool or chic in movies since the 1970's, when Sam Peckinpah's Convoy was on the screen and CB radio was the closest thing we had to the Internet, so the film's title probably won't help with marketing. Audiences expecting a road movie will instead get a family drama of tragic death and mother-son bonding.
Bratt and Monaghan are the cast members who might draw an audience. And if Monaghan's upcoming Made Of Honor performs well in the marketplace, raising her profile, the search for a US distributor for Trucker might get easier, as might a berth on the festival and indie circuit. But international prospects are dim.
We meet Diane in a motel room bed with a stranger she has just picked up on the road. She doesn't mind the attention from strange men or from wholesome married Runner (Fillion) either, a friend in her dusty California hometown. It all changes with her ex's grave diagnosis and the arrival of son Peter (Bennett), whose favorite synonym for mom is 'you bitch'. But Diane can be just as childish.
As a bond forms between Diane and the angry Peter, Leonard's illness keeps their life from being normal. So do the many men who pursue Diane. The improbable challenge is for mother and son to make it through the tragedy intact, while Diane drives shipments down the freeways.
At the film's core is the hardheaded ballsy truckdriver, played by Monaghan, an agile performer with a character actress's quirkiness and a keen balance of humor, determination and vulnerability. She has a fine instinct for playing a soul on the edge, even in the best of times, and this is a role similar to Maggie Gyllenhaal's tough ex-con single mom in Sherrybaby, or the female miner that Monaghan herself played in North Country. Monaghan's character doesn't update the mythology of trucking - it's just a way to make a buck, with plenty of one-night stands en route.
In the supporting cast, Bratt appears dutifully in glimpses of his worsening condition, like a guest character in ER who's gearing up to have that last talk with his son. Fillion has an appealing warmth as a local drinking buddy who is too tender for Diane to love, and Jimmy Bennett, as Peter, before things ripen with his mother, is a brat that Diane might just as well abandon again if she could.
In encounters that bounce Diane from men to dying ex to peevish child, DP Lawrence Sher charts her journey in poignant close-ups. Always in the background is the realism of the unforgiving dust-grey California desert or the anonymous Anywhere USA concrete of a truckstop on the Interstate - that is, once you've suspended disbelief about a movie star driving a truck across the country.
First-time director/writer James Mottern's script is an awkward conduit from one dramatic crossroads in Diane's story to the next. The actors roll into a crisis, unload their emotions, and then shift gears and drive on to the next exit in the plot. Even with the emotional explosions, the film can get monotonous.
Hanson Allen Films
(1) 212 204 7979
Daniela Taplin Lundberg
Director of photography
Joey Lauren Adams