November 19, 2009 -- You would think a movie like “Trucker” would be a movie about truckers, but it really isn't. It is more about motherhood, of all things. Oh, it has truckers and trucks in it, of course, but they serve as a metaphor and a backdrop for the real story about a mother very reluctantly reconnecting with her own child. The low-budget, low-key minimalist movie is well-written, well-acted and well-directed. It is a lot better than one would expect from its humble origins and its plain name.
Michelle Monaghan of “Gone Baby Gone” stars as Diane Ford, a tough independent long-haul trucker. She proudly owns her own truck and plans to pay off her own house as well. She has a married boyfriend, named Runner (Nathan Fillion of “Waitress”) with whom she has a Platonic relationship. When she's on the road she sometimes beds men she meets, using them as casually as some men use women. One such sex scene opens the movie. Diane seems content with her life, but that contentment is only skin deep. She is actually running away from life at full speed, driving all over the country, but going nowhere. Her relationship with Runner is going nowhere and so is her life.
All that changes when her 11-year-old son, Peter (Jimmy Bennett of “Star Trek”) shows up at her door, along with the woman who has been taking care of him, Jenny, who is the current girlfriend of Peter's father, Leonard Bonner (Benjamin Bratt of “The Great Raid”). Bonner is in the hospital and Jenny needs to attend her father's funeral, so there is no one to take care of Peter. Diane is not pleased, this was not the arrangement she and Bonner had agreed to 10 years ago when she left. She sees that there is no way out of this situation, so she agrees to take the boy for a month.
Diane tries taking Peter with her on her long-haul deliveries, but that is a disaster. She tries taking Peter to school and caring for him at home, sometimes taking turns with Runner. Nothing seems to work. Peter is moody, demanding and stubborn, a lot like Diane. She finds that Peter is taking a big chunk of her time, but he is also worming his way into her heart. She enjoys teaching him how to play baseball and enjoys watching him play little league ball. Diane is rediscovering the child inside herself. She becomes softer, less hard-edged in dealing with Peter. Some of the movie's best scenes involve Peter talking to his mother and father. Diane tries, haltingly, to explain to Peter why she felt trapped as a young woman and why she left. Peter's father tries to explain to his son what it takes to be a man. Runner also tries to help Peter grow up.
Although this is a low-key movie, it has a nice pace to it. It doesn't drag the way some low-budget independent films do. The story advances nicely. The acting by all the main characters is really top-notch. The screenplay is well written. While the conclusion is not hard to predict, it is also very satisfying. The overall story serves as a metaphor for American life, where too many people spend a lot of time keeping busy without ever really enjoying the moment and without ever being truly alive. This is illustrated in the film when Diane comes in the house to discover Peter and another boy playing with a can of whipped cream and making a big mess. At first, she's furious, but then she joins in the game, something she never would have done a couple of weeks earlier. Diane used to have a simple life with few responsibilities, but it was also empty. Diane is now confronted with a new set of responsibilities and possibilities and a very uncertain future, which just might be a lot more satisfying. This film rates a B+.
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