‘DRIVER’ Documentary Review: A Compelling Look at Reality for Women Truck Drivers

Wide shots of roads with purplish skies over them. We see that mainly during the sunsets, as Nesa Azimi’s cameras portray. She takes us on a journey throughout the United States railroads and gas stations alongside the female truckers in business. In the first minute of DRIVER, the director introduces us to Desiree Wood, a driver who is the founder of the Real Women in Trucking Association (RWIT). Besides a late introduction to her, in terms of her name and who she is, the film guides us to accompany her saga in the steering wheel. 

As she crosses the country, Desiree talks about how tough it is to be a cargo delivery trucker. She states that she lives paycheck-to-paycheck, even citing that she spent three months pay less after the Association’s meet-up on a cruise in May. Besides the poor and uncertain payments, companies increasingly exploit the fees they force upon drivers. They ought to choose low and absurdly exploitative or no payment. 

DRIVER brings to mind Nomadland

Shortly as the film starts to develop, it is reminiscent of Jessica Bruder’s discussion of her book Nomadland, which led to Chloe Zhao’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture adaptation of the same title. In Bruder’s work, she elaborates on the recreational vehicles population who would take freelancing jobs at Amazon’s boot camps, where they take on the delivery and rental companies. 

The discussion of corporate greed that smashes the bottom of the labor pyramid complements the ones in their work. The poor revenue needs to be reverted to the drivers. Also, abusive interest rates are present in the truck’s lease. Azimi shows a couple of moments in which the truckers must survive the dangers of the long and tiring drives and the corporations. 

Another crucial discussion present is the sexual violence and abuse that the female drivers are exposed to and the lack of punitive actions towards the criminals. Desiree serves a therapeutical role of guidance to other drivers who suffered abuse, as she describes rape in her past life experiences. The topic discussion is raw and direct; the RWIT goes on conferences to advocate against sexual violence and to demand changes. 

In a shocking dialogue, while members of the associations go around the pavilion asking for signatures on a petition, one of the drivers affirms that “some women bring on themselves” regarding the sexual violence they suffer. It is a jaw-dropping dialogue while some members try to argue how absurd that thought is, and an older trucker says that at least she is willing to sign the petition. It is a moment of intense and provocative expositions to the public, but they broaden the debate upon the conditions women risk every time they step on a truck seat. 

Besides the bare nature of the observational figure that Azimi’s cameras assume, sometimes the subjects feel they need to be more cooked. Some essential people share considerate screen time, but we need to know their names directly. It is a bit contradictory, but while the approach looks for a close relationship between the public and the subjects, its structure shields that interaction. 

Also, some editing could be more balanced in the film, and some of the timelines could be clearer and need to be more straightforward, with some jump cuts. Furthermore, some of the film’s first half does not impose the energy necessary to balance with the second half, which has crucial and fascinating conversations about sexual abuse, modern labor conditions, and advocating. 

Ultimately, the film is a compelling analysis of the reality of female drives across the United States. Women who rejected the notions of family, owning a house, and going against the social patterns of a profession once considered only for men. Desiree’s work in advocating against sexual abuse on the highway is impressive and engaging to accompany in the film. Also, RWIT’s work is essential to the debate, and the portion of the film they appear in is the film’s highlight. The cruise, the truck convention, and the end are a great end to tell their story. 

DRIVER is a reasonable effort by Nesa Azimi. While it sometimes fails to maintain a cohesive cut and organize a few timelines, Desiree’s presence makes up for it. Also, RWIT’s work and the whole discussion it brings make a worthwhile film. Victor Tadashi Suárez’s cinematography brings an outstanding body of work through colorful skylines and close lenses to the subjects.

DRIVER just premiered in the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival documentary competition.

The movie is looking for an acquisition deal. Learn more about DRIVER at the official website for the title.

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