James (Stephen Tobolowsky) is a middle aged man who has some unresolved issues with his recently passed father, whose ashes now sit in a nice white vase on a table by the phone. The story begins with an amusing unsympathetic telephone conversation between James and his sister in which James’s negative feelings towards his father are shown. After slamming the phone down, James picks up the vase and heads out the door to scatter his father’s ashes.
As he drives toward his destination on the dark deserted roads he picks up a hitchhiker, a young man called Jim, who, as it happens, is heading to Cold Spring Trail, the same place as James. However Jim is no ordinary hitchhiker and together they go on a trip down memory lane where finally James must confront his own grievances with his dead father.
Tobolowsky gives an excellent performance walking the tight rope of emotional sincerity, without being overstated or indulgent. The overall plot is predictable, but due the high level of acting it is engaging. Its simplistic charm carries a poignant message about death, unsolved grievance and letting go, but its relatively light-hearted take on morbidity make it enjoyable and thought-provoking.
Though the film is cut well, stylistically it doesn’t show much flare. However it does what is needed to push this primarily narrative driven short forward, as well as having a subtle musical score which is skilfully placed throughout to add weight to the more emotional scenes. All in all The Hitchhiker is a perfectly nice, well executed little short film that leaves the viewer with something to think about.