Thunder Road (2018)

Thunder Road – Jim Cummings writes, directs and stars as Jim, a small-town cop negotiating multiple crises in this bittersweet comedy drama.

'Frameable Moments'

by Chris Drew

Thunder Road

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Life is not going well for Jim Arnaud.

We meet him first at his mother’s funeral where he delivers an extraordinary eulogy. Beginning almost casually, with comic asides, he gradually gets more emotional as his composure rapidly crumbles. The culmination is a surreal dance performance that both comes back to haunt Jim and encapsulates the whole film.

In the aftermath of the funeral, Jim soon find himself in difficulty at work following a spectacular breakdown in a parking lot while simultaneously facing a custody battle for his young daughter Crystal. The father–daughter relationship is a highlight as we see Jim giving advice about make-up, learning a complicated hand game and suggesting they watch an inappropriate action film.

Jim receives support from his caring police partner Nate, whose family appear to have dealt with Jim and his breakdowns previously. Nate puts up with Jim unleashing his frustrations at him.

There are tender moments that tug at the heartstrings; Jim’s trip to see his sister ends with an emotional coda while a late shock and reveal leads to Jim having a moving heart-to-heart with Crystal.

However, Cummings ensures that a laugh is never far away, be it Jim falling asleep next to a sprinkler, tearing his trousers or his hilarious reaction to Crystal meeting a boy outside school.

Jim is always front and centre and makes for a consistently compelling protagonist. Handsome and moustached, with his trademark sunglasses constantly strapped around his neck, Jim is both endearing and pathetic. Cummings impressive performance is layered with humour and pathos.

There are fine supporting performances across the board with Nican Robinson (13 Reasons Why) excellent as the calm Nate, while young Kendal Farr is wonderfully natural and entertaining as Crystal.

Expanding his own 2016 short of the same name, the project was clearly a real labour of love for Cummings who directs, stars and produces as well as working on the soundtrack and effects. He pulls it off with gusto and in Jim creates a quirky and truly original character that will live long in the memory.

Thunder Road screened at the BFI London Film Festival and is released on 31 May 2019 in the UK.

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