Writer-director Jim Cummings tragicomedy feature Thunder Road began life as a short film that won the grand jury prize at Sundance in 2016. The accolade helped elevate Cummings to develop the story into a feature-length film. It paid off; the feature Thunder Road then went on to win the SXSW grand jury prize in 2018. It’s a heartwarming tale of middle America – a young father living by surviving.
Cummings plays a bumbling, small-town police officer Jim Arnaud, introduced to us at his mother’s funeral. Arnaud’s grief at his loss is loaded with a grown-up realisation of what parenting actually means. His words at the funeral identify as begging for his mother’s forgiveness for the trials of his adolescent years. What he does next – a dance to Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road – may be a step too far and will have a snowball effect throughout the film.
A single parent himself, Arnaud is willed to make changes for the sake of his daughter, Crystal (brilliant casting of Kendal Farr). However external forces intervene, Arnaud struggles to keep his head. Crystal’s mother Ros (Jocelyn DeBoer) serves divorce papers upon him. As a father, he is patient, concerned, yet appears such a doofus around Crystal. After completely humiliating her at the funeral, Crystal will not easily forgive and forget.
Neither will Ros, who takes it as further ammunition to also file for sole custody of their daughter. At the court hearing to resolve the custody issue, Arnaud’s funeral performance again comes back to haunt. This time sending him into a spiralling meltdown that sees him sacked from the police force and at odds with his best friend and fellow cop, Nate (played by Nican Robinson). All appears lost for Arnaud, but circumstance has something else in store.
Thunder Road is a funny, heartfelt story of characters who want for better, but where ‘best’ is just out of reach. While some scenes are cringe-worthy, the fact is you cannot look away. The one takes at both the funeral and in the police station car park are absorbing and testament to the talent that is Jim Cummings.
Thunder Road is screening nationally 18 April 2019.
About Thunder Road
Written and Directed by: Jim Cummings
Stars: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson, Jocelyn DeBoer, Chelsea Edmundson, Macon Blair, Bill Wise, Jordan Fox