This is an unsettling and moving film, dealing with the emotional insecurity of both adult and child. Michelle Monaghan plays the part of the trucker, married in her late teens and soon divorced, estranged from her one child who lives with his father, and she is now nearing a very attractive thirty. Her life is spent on the highways and byways of America, her pleasure taken where she can find it from one-night stands. Back home in dusty small-town nowhere, California, she has a platonic friendship with a neighbour (played by Nathan Fillion), drinking pals and nothing more - but he wants more.
One night Monaghan returns from a trip to find her 11-year-old son (Jimmy Bennett) being dumped on her - the father is in hospital dying from cancer, the stepmother has to urgently go away on family business. Mother and son are strangers, but the boy needs comfort and security. Monaghan, clearly troubled and insecure from her own early life, struggles to reach out to her own son, who even at 11 is wilful and assertive, but also (and not surprisingly, given the strong bond with his dying father) desperately insecure and a loner.
The film unravels to chart the ebbs and flows of the relationship which develops between mother and son. The boy goes to a local school, makes a friend, and despite a lack of skill, joins the baseball team which eventually bolsters his self-confidence. Monaghan attempts to lead her trucker life as normal, despite the boy's presence, and the would-be boyfriend / neighbour attempts to become a father figure. The stepmother is happy to keep the boy, but what does the boy want?
The film does not pull its punches, or provide a saccharine ending. It is a love story but of an unconventional nature - people needing love, others unable to provide it. If the story seems slight, it is, but the performances and direction easily held my attention - no fast forwarding of the DVD. Michelle Monaghan gives a moving, credible performance as the trucker / reluctant mother, but it is the boy, Jimmy Bennett who, defying his young age, steals the acting honours, by turn feisty and distraught. Recommended to a thinking audience.
My one quibble is the complete lack of extras on the DVD (other than trailers for other films). A film like this would benefit from an additional Director's commentary, interviews, "Making Of", or similar to give it background about the script, casting, the struggle to raise the movie budget, etc. The lack of extras is presumably explained by its tight budget, which fortunately does not affect the look of the location-shot final result.