Smile Politely

Trucker: more than a family road trip

What is life like as a female trucker, and what does a woman named Diane Ford do when the freedom of that lifestyle is challenged? Are freedom and motherhood mutually exclusive? The film Trucker, playing at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Ebertfest, looks to explore the answers to these questions.

Ford, played by Michelle Monahan, is asked to start caring for her estranged son, Peter, when his father, Len (Benjamin Bratt), has to focus on battling cancer. Roger Ebert gave Trucker four stars. In his review, he says “What Mottern does is lock these two characters [Ford and Peter] in a story and sees what happens.” Is anyone else intrigued to discover what unfolds?

The film is written and directed by James Mottem, who won the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting for this script in 2003. Trucker premiered at the Tribeca film festival in April 2008.

The trailer suggests this film also hits on themes of family, love, and independence. Peter tells his mother “You think you’re so tough. You’re the scaredest person I know.” Does his outburst reveal something true that she hadn’t acknowledged before? I look forward to discovering how the characters communicate with each other, deal with conflict, and change over the course of the story. 

Nathan Fillion has a supporting role in Trucker, and was interviewed about it by the Tribeca Film blog. I discovered him on Two Guys and a Girl, rediscovered him in Firefly and Serenity, and currently enjoy watching him as a cop-shadowing writer on Castle every Monday. Albeit a loose connection, there are lines from the theme song in Firefly that may speak to Ford’s mindset as well: “I don’t care, I’m still free // You can’t take the sky from me.” I look forward to seeing how Fillion portrays Ford’s best friend.

Monaghan has brought depth and humanity to her previous roles. I’m confident this performance will build upon what we’ve seen in those characters and deliver even more. Beyond the issues raised by the basic premise, many questions can be asked about the lead character. Why does she really maintain her chosen lifestyle? Has she always loved the power of sitting in the cab? How does she participate in or distinguish herself from typical trucker culture? Is being alone a choice, a coincidence, or a luxury? As we watch the film on Saturday, some of these questions may be answered along the way.

On the surface, I couldn’t be more different from the protagonist of this film. I have absolutely no desire to be a trucker, I haven’t had a child yet, and I actually come from a pretty healthy family. But the complications and hardships that arise from struggling with a family member’s disease and from learning to truly connect with others will resonate with audience members of any background. It’s an opportunity to glimpse how someone else’s point of view informs decisions made in these circumstances.

On Tuesday, I mentioned the after-film discussions are one of the highlights of the Ebertfest experience. Writer/director Mottem and actor Monaghan are both scheduled to appear for the discussion after Trucker. I look forward to seeing them in person and hearing their insight into the film’s story and the process of creating it.

I don’t want to generate unrealistic hype, but I genuinely expect Trucker will deliver a compelling visit to a distinct and intriguing lifestyle. I hope to walk out of the Virginia on Saturday evening with my appetite for a fresh, bittersweet story satisfied.

Trucker is rated R, and it plays at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $12 for the general public and $10 for students and seniors. The rush ticket line is your opportunity to get last-minute tickets, starting thirty minutes before the show.

Related Articles