Thunder Road is a charming indie film by emerging filmmaker and triple threat writer, director and actor Jim Cummings. The story follows the downfall of Jim Arnaud (Cummings) as he deals with losses of family members and relationships—albeit not very well.
Jim Arnaud is a Texan police officer struggling with the death of his mother while dealing with the pain of his divorce. The overwhelming pain of loss makes it difficult for Jim to communicate with his young daughter while he tries to carry on as a well-respected and decorated police officer. It is these events that lead (unsurprisingly) to Jim spiraling into a mental breakdown.
Thunder Road was created based upon Cummings’ successful 2016 short film of the same name. The film won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, as well as a plethora of prizes at other festivals, which led to a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $190,000 toward the cost of the full-length feature.
The film’s beginning, taken from the short, brilliantly sums up the chaos and quirkiness that resonates throughout the film. It opens with Jim delivering a truly memorable, ten-minute-long eulogy at his mother’s funeral. As Jim tries to convey the memory of his mother to the mourners, the scene cuts from moments of Jim bursting into tears, to deadpan delivery, to him trying unsuccessfully to perform an interpretive dance to Bruce Springsteen’s song Thunder Road– a moment that makes you simultaneously cringe and laugh out loud.
If watching a man have a breakdown whilst dancing in silence to Springsteen at his mother’s funeral does not pique your interest, then this is not the film for you.
It is Cummings’ stellar performance as the quirky and severely flawed officer that drives the film and delivers this heart-warming story. Jim Arnaud is overwhelmingly average, yet there is everything to love about this tragic mustache wearing man. His incapacity to handle emotional situations as a rational human being and his awkward interactions with others only led me to cheer for him more. I was on edge the whole time not knowing what he might do next or how he might react to situations. One moment he’s sobbing, the next moment he’s dancing, and then the next moment he’s destroying everything.
Jim’s flaws however are outweighed by the efforts that he goes to do right by other people, even if sometimes misguided. Even within a tumultuous relationship with his ex-wife he still applauds her as a mother as he tries desperately to engage with his daughter who does not want to be around him.
Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road is about escaping the grips of a small town, something which Jim can’t seem to do and as we learn it runs in his blood. I wouldn’t recommend listening to this great song before watching the movie unless you want to know the film’s ending. Although the eponymous title is important to the plot, not once is the song played in the film—perhaps, they couldn’t afford the royalties—but in any case, it still works.
Thunder Road is a wonderful movie that manages to elegantly combine tragedy and loss with optimism and hope. If you’re looking for a film to watch, this one is a real crowd pleaser.
Catch Thunder Road from April 25th, only at Luna Cinemas.