Two guys are effectively stranded in central Texas, during long, isolated weeks of summer road work - line-painting, post-erecting and all the rest. The year is 1988; the previous year fires swept through this vast forested region, destroying thousands of acres and many homes, with lives lost too. So the pair drive their little truck and trailer through an ashy, shredded-up wilderness, parking up every few miles to do a stretch of roadway. They fry fish caught in local rivers and sleep nights side by side in their small tent.
Alvin (Paul Rudd) is the older, more experienced worker who secured the job for the younger, less motivated Lance (Emile Hirsch). Alvin's girlfriend, Madison, is Lance’s sister, so in his eyes he did him a favour. Thus Lance is beholden to Alvin, and somewhat resentful, although in truth he does his best with the mind-numbing tasks.
Yet he is shockingly inept as far as Alvin is concerned in terms of basic skills - unable to gut a fish, for instance. Dreaming of the women he wants to seduce, Lance plans a weekend in the city and departs in their truck. Alvin prefers to stay put, camp out, savour the solitude of his workplace, and write letters to Madison. Sensible if humourless, he dreams of marrying and home-making.
David Gordon Green’s clever screenplay thrives on the inevitable tensions between the two characters. There are echoes of a Mike Leigh classic, Nuts in May, in the clash of opposites, the buttoned-up, boring persona dealing with the free-spirited but naïve fellow traveller. Yet, inevitably, an odd friendship between the boys struggles through the burnt undergrowth.
The movie builds towards an interesting climax, which shakes the whole thing up somewhat. It would be unfair to spoil by revealing any more. Eccentric, yet oddly poetic, and based on an Icelandic film, Prince Avalanche is a little gem.