An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
Bryce Dallas Howard
In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
Diane's free-wheeling life of drunken one-night-stands as a professional trucker hits a road block when Peter, her son, is dropped at her doorstep. Her former husband Len, whom she abandoned eleven years ago along with their new-born son, has cancer and no one else to turn to while he's in the hospital. Peter, resentful and wary, wants, even needs a mother who'll want him at this worrisome time but knows better than to expect this from Diane. With deliveries waiting and a mortgage to be paid, there's only one inevitable thing ahead for Diane and Peter - a road trip together. Written by
Indie version of the unlikely relationship film stays just fresh enough
What embodies the lonely, self-dependent person than the trucker? Hours upon hours of driving with nothing but some music and one's own thoughts. We've seen this protagonist before, just not in the form of the beautiful Diane (Michelle Monaghan) cussing and driving a truck. The opening scene with Diane getting a quick sexual fix, pulling out a cigarette and hitting the road without saying more than a word or two is not exactly original character development, but James Mottern's debut film hits a notably real chord in all its silence and familiarity.
When Diane gets stuck with Peter, an 11-year-old boy who as it turns out is the son she abandoned an infancy, suddenly "Trucker" has the workings of an "unlikely pair go on a road trip comedy." Fortunately, that tired concept of two people who don't like each forming a bond pretty much ends after the first third of the film and everything becomes much more real. After all, Diane is watching Peter because his dad, her ex-husband, is dying of colon cancer -- not your typical circumstance. And rather than Diane and Peter slowly reconnecting as mother and son throughout, there are much more ups and downs.
Occasionally "Trucker" will dip into cliché, namely in its handling of mother-son dialogue. Peter is a smart kid with real kid issues of wanting to be loved and showing it by provoking adults, but a couple times Mottern has him drift into the kid who says something intelligent and revealing about the older character who is frozen by the comment and considers it in a lingering camera shot at the end of the scene. Mottern keeps the film quiet and subtle for so much of it and these techniques put little cracks into his vision.
But Mottern must be thankful for this strong core cast. Monaghan excels in her first dramatic starring role. Diane is not the most complicated of characters to solve, but Monaghan keeps her from ever becoming an open book. Her lone wolf speak-your-mind mentality is much more at odds with the small kernel of her that wants to make meaningful connections with the people who have suddenly become close to her. The young Jimmy Bennett also impresses as Peter, having a lot more scenes requiring self-awareness and meaningful discussion that most child actors. Nathan Fillion, who plays Diane's friend Runner also works his charms and Benjamin Bratt as the dying father earns our sympathy quickly despite his minimal screen time.
"Trucker" could have done with half the number of driving in a truck to contemplative indie music transition sequences, but that's just the kind of film it is. It has that timeless, expected story line of two people who slowly forge a relationship they didn't think they wanted but both need, yet some unpredictable moments and solid performances throughout that keep its message fresh a create genuine sympathy for its characters.
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