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Trucker is an American indie that starts out strong and fast but runs out of gas by the predictable and conventional ending.

Along for the Ride

Monaghan can handle the driver's seat
Monaghan can handle the driver’s seat

Diane (Michele Monaghan) is asked to take care of her son again for the first time in a decade. She left, years ago, because she’s not the sort of person who hangs around a home and looks after children. After all, she drives a truck for a living.

She seems young — maybe still in her twenties, or maybe just past. She’s mature enough to own a home — a tiny little ranch with a five-digit address. Her best friend (Nathan Fillion) is a married man, and they date (platonically, with flirting) as though he weren’t. She has a short temper; she gets frustrated easily and is quick to lose her patience. She’s willing to accept some parental responsibility but she’s not enthusiastic about it. When she gets her son Peter (Jimmy Bennett), she calls him “dude.”

That’s okay, because he calls her “bitch.” Peter isn’t the easiest kid to get along with, nor the brightest (“Where’s Oklahoma City,” he asks). But he’s not a monster or anything. He may not be very cooperative, but he’s not dead-set against being with his mother, either. That’s good because Diane doesn’t know what to do with him except bring him along on her runs.

The Driver’s Seat

Trucker is at its best when it is a portrait of mother and son. Monaghan does great with the two sides to her role. Diane was not ready to be a mom, but at least she is willing to test drive motherhood. She’s not all bad, and not all good. She’s flawed, but trying her best.

But writer/director James Mottern, making his feature film debut, has more on his mind than portraits of a mother and son. There are conflicts and resolutions that move us away from the characters and toward the requisite plot milestones. Peter’s father gave him up because he is dying of cancer, which means there has to be a reunion scene, of course. Diane’s work suffers for her personal distractions, and that must be reconciled. And if that weren’t enough to fill a movie, a gratuitous villain appears and does something bad, giving the film one more thread to tie up before the end.

By the end, Trucker seems like just another American indie. But that strong start and the believable main characters show a spark of promise for Mottern. And though Monaghan has proven herself on TV and in films ( Boston Public, North Country), in Trucker she proves she can handle the driver’s seat.