Trucker largely reminded me of another indie movie titled Come Early Morning, which was written and directed by Chasing Amy's Joey Lauren Adams (who, incidentally, also stars in Trucker). The tone of both movies features a kind of weary, weathered fondness for the southern American landscape (in Come Early Morning it's the South, in Trucker it's the dusty deserts of southern California). At the heart of both movies, too, are hard-edged, tough-talking women in jobs that others in the movie ridicule for not being "women's jobs": Ashley Judd's character in Early Morning worked in construction, while the main character of Diane in Trucker, played by Michelle Monaghan, is a truck driver.
On the surface these two films might blur together in my mind as one unrecognizable narrative of the rough-around-the-edges woman learning to soften and accept love as well as give it. Trucker stands out a bit, though, as a more interesting story, more layered with higher stakes. And while it's not the most memorable movie in general, it's captivating enough and ultimately sends a heartwarming message. To see what I mean,
The movie opens with a scene not suitable for watching with, say, your parents: Diane is seen having a one-hour stand with a young man (played by Joey Lawrence's brother, Matthew!) she picked up for the night. From here, it's established that she lives a loner's life on the road, driving trucks and picking up random men. But she always goes back to her California home where her neighbor Runner (Nathan Fillion) lives to hang out with Diane and pine after her — despite the fact that he's married. Soon drama comes in the form of Diane's young son Peter (Jimmy Bennet) who she abandoned, along with Peter's father (Benjamin Bratt) many years ago. Diane learns that Peter needs stay with her because his father has cancer, and there's a chance that Peter will need to move in with Diane permanently.
The relationship between mother and son is often uncomfortably contentious, with Monaghan's intense Diane walking around like a stick of dynamite about to blow up. Yet, we start to understand Diane's reasoning: she's just not the type of woman who wants to be a steady mom. She wants to be always moving, on the road, and the kid cramps her style. Thus, when the moments that include any inkling of tenderness between Diane and Peter do come along, they are hard-earned. Nathan Fillion is extremely handsome in the movie, though his role confounded me, as it was never explored why he spent all his time with Diane while his wife sat at home right next door. Unexamined and unexplained things like this make the movie frustrating, though by the time the sweet ending comes around, you might just forgive it.