Diane (Monaghan) leads a solitary and carefree life as a trucker, punctuating her driving with nights of hard drinking and one night stands. But when her ex is admitted to hospital with a terminal illness, she is unexpectedly reunited with her estranged 11-year-old son Peter (Bennett) which is shock to the system for both of them.
Making estranged parent-child relationship films work depend largely on two things – the script and the actors. In Trucker, debut filmmaker James Mottern has both nailed. Although the story may sound trite and clichéd it’s all in the handling and while Jimmy Bennett is good as the disillusioned and apparently unwanted Peter, the real star is Michelle Monaghan in the lead role. She demands attention with a largely angry but always controlled performance and is utterly believable as the tough trucker.
Faced with a past she had all but moved on from, she now has to revisit it in the starkest possible way. Life, once so simple, can no longer be that way and tough situations require tough decisions, not only from her but also from her son. The interaction between the two is key to the watchability of the film and the subtle shifts in their feelings towards each other is engrossing.
The beauty of the script is that it feels real – there are grey areas aplenty and it seems that both Peter and Diane are entirely justified in believing that what they’re feeling and how they’re behaving. It would be easy to make such a story overly sentimental and so it’s to Mottern’s huge credit that Trucker manages to be affecting without ever veering into schmaltz. Engaging, moving and wonderfully performed, this is a small film that deserves a big audience.