dir-scr James Mottern
prd Scott Hanson, Galt Niederhoffer, Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg
with Michelle Monaghan, Jimmy Bennett, Nathan Fillion, Benjamin Bratt, Joey Lauren Adams, Bryce Johnson, Brandon Hanson, Maya McLaughlin, Ricky Ellison, Matthew Lawrence, Mika Boorem, Dennis Hayden
release US 9.Oct.09
08/US Plum 1h33
Don't talk to me: Monaghan and Bennett

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R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Trucker This thin but sensitive story about an independent woman reluctantly connecting with others and herself can't help but move us, especially when it's anchored by such a fine central performance.

Diane (Monaghan) is a fiercely unsentimental woman: driving big-rigs across the country, engaging in anonymous trysts along the way and refusing to give in to the mutual attraction between her and her best friend Runner (Fillion). But things start to come unglued when her equally strong-willed 11-year-old son Peter (Bennett) is deposited at her house while his father (Bratt) undergoes cancer treatment and his stepmom (Adams) is otherwise engaged. Diane doesn't want to be a mother any more than Peter wants to be her son.

Writer-director Mottern goes for an art-film visual sense with brown-hued, high-contrast, wide-screen imagery. But the film doesn't feel arty, due to its straightforward dialog and blunt characters. While it has plenty of potential atmosphere in the California desert setting where Diane lives, as well as the truck stops she frequents, Mottern captures these places matter-of-factly rather than probing them for thematic effect. And there's no real sense of the solitude of a long-distance trucker.

This light-handed approach extends through the script as well, which is effectively underwritten to focus on characters who aren't hugely articulate. This realistically refuses to let us fully understand relationships or situations, since we have so little background information, although some of the plot turns feel rather contrived as a result. But as a result the strong actors bring the characters to life in ways that are continually surprising. We're pulled into the story through their finely tuned performances.

After so many Hollywood blockbusters, it's terrific to see Monaghan tear into such a meaty role, filling Diane with a hollow yearning that never becomes predictable or slushy. This woman has hardened her heart for some reason we never quite understand, but we do know that she hates herself for it. Opposite her, Fillion and Bennett both give intriguingly offbeat performances that refuse to dissolve into cliches. And even as the plot approaches a conclusion that's not completely unexpected, there are some surprises in store. As well as a few moments that catch us emotionally.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 27.Dec.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall