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Trucker is an emblematic American indie film. It offers a juicy leading role to an actress who usually works in mainstream Hollywood fare, and completely fulfills its modest ambitions. Writer-director James Mottern has crafted a vivid, credible character study of a young woman whose fierce independent streak has led her to a career that allows her to live life on her own terms as a truck driver, while steering her away from long-term relationships. Saddling her with the sudden…

responsibility for an 11-year-old son she abandoned in infancy may seem formulaic, at first glance, but the story plays out with such genuineness—and avoidance of cliché—that one can’t, and shouldn’t, complain.

Michelle Monaghan has established her bona fides in a variety of films and television shows, but she’s never had a showcase quite like this before, a starring role that offers her a character with many colors and facets to explore. She’s one tough cookie—and we believe it—but there are many feelings she suppresses. Nathan Fillion displays easygoing charm as her only real friend, whom she keeps at arm’s length; Benjamin Bratt and Joey Lauren Adams bring solidity to their supporting roles. Jimmy Bennett earns special praise as Monaghan’s son, a bitter, foul-mouthed kid whose evolution, over the course of the film, is refreshingly believable.

Trucker doesn’t break new ground, nor does it pretend to…but it does offer a completely satisfying experience, which is more than many slick studio movies can claim this year.

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