BFI London Film Festival: Thunder Road

Thunder Road
Thunder Road
Directed by Jim Cummings
Starring Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr and Nican Robinson
Screening at LFF October 10th, 11th, 12th and 20th 2018

by Joanna Orland

Adapted from the Sundance-winning short film of the same name, Thunder Road walks the line of comedy and drama with such precision, it’s hard to know whether the audience should be laughing or crying. As writer, director and star, Jim Cummings gives a tear-inducing performance as Jim Arnaud, an officer who is grieving over the loss of his mother, while trying to forge a meaningful relationship with his daughter.

The film begins with Jim giving an outrageously funny and sad eulogy at his mother’s funeral. The performance and writing emanate both a riduculousness and pathos from Jim as he makes a fool of himself in front of the funeral audience. The masterful way Cummings has made this opener both hilarious and depressing from one second to the next is inspiring, and watching the feature film, it’s no surprise that this opener was the setup of the original award-winning short. This scene is so perfect, I actually thought to myself how this would make an excellent short film, before realizing that it already did. The rest of the film explores the character of Jim, examining what it is that he’s going through that leads him to have an emotional breakdown, while keeping with the humour found in the opening scene.

There is an autheticity to Thunder Road, often not found in mainstream Hollywood fare. Being an independent film, performances are very naturalistic in the same vein of the mumblecore genre. The budget is clearly low, but put to good use. With the script and performances as strong as they are, the tight 90 minute film is an empathetic joy to watch. Jim Cummings in this amazing unhinged role carries the film through its array of emotions and exploration of family dynamics.

A tragicomic portrait of a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Thunder Road will make you laugh, it will make you cry; often at the same time.


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