Thunder Road

In Cinemas Now

A police officer raises his daughter as a love letter to his late mother in this SXSW-winner written and directed by and starring Jim Cummings.

"Officer Jim Arnaud’s eulogy at his mother’s funeral does not go as planned. Struggling to stay focused as his emotions take over, the tongue-tied 30-something launches into a free-wheeling diatribe of confessional digressions, not helped by the fact that he cannot seem to get his mother’s favourite Bruce Springsteen song to play on his daughter’s pink stereo. Consumed by sadness, Jim searches for some semblance of control in an otherwise crumbling existence. Propelled by an extraordinarily unhinged central performance from writer-director-star Jim Cummings (expanding from his award-winning 2016 short film of the same name), Thunder Road is a painful, often blackly funny exploration of grief, mental illness and the fragile male ego." (London Film Festival)

Trailers

Awards

Winner of the Grand Jury Award for Narrative Feature, 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival

Directed by

Written by

Comedy, Drama, Festival & Independent

92mins

Rating: R13 Offensive language

USA

It was interesting to watch the impact of the UK Office, and more specifically Ricky Gervais, ripple across the American comedy landscape. Echoes of certain very British mannerisms appeared in films like The Foot Fist Way and TV shows like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, as creators became more emboldened to push their comedy to darker places than innovators like Christopher Guest and Garry Shandling had dared.

Thunder Road feels like it exists on that continuum, with writer-director-lead Jim Cummings taking on the role of ‘man who doesn’t realise he’s having a nervous breakdown’ that Gervais made so familiar. Here though, Cummings walks a much finer line between comedy and tragedy, perpetually teetering between hilarious and heartbreaking. Put it this way—I spent a large part of the film unsure if I should be laughing or not.

The first scene is a good litmus test: a single unbroken take that lasts for over ten minutes, of Cummings’ character speaking at his mother’s funeral, his behaviour becoming increasingly weird as he descends into grief. You’re watching a man fall apart, but jeez, what a doofus. The fact that he’s an armed police officer makes things even uneasier, and has implications that linger throughout Thunder Road.

You can watch a version of the scene here: it’s the short film that got Cummings funding to make it feature-length.

I’ve seen two trailers doing the rounds. The first spoils many surprising moments and should be avoided. The other paints the film as a straight drama, and… maybe it is? But as Cummings keeps pushing his character beyond sympathetic you may find it hard not to laugh. All that said, it’s a small film about a man struggling at his job and trying to connect with his daughter. Familiar stuff, but it’s the singular, slightly deranged execution that makes it strangely thrilling.

Variety (USA)

press

This is one of the first dramas to dig deep into America’s heartland crisis — the crush of the spirit that has emerged from a collapsing job market and drug addiction and the underlying loss of faith.

Los Angeles Times

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Remarkably, Cummings manages to piece these oddball vignettes into a vivid drama with its own unpredictable, startlingly lovely shape.

Rolling Stone

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I have seen humanistic American filmmaking's future, and its name is Jim Cummings.

Hollywood Reporter

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Driven by Cummings' transfixingly vulnerable performance, the movie not only justifies returning to the source: Shockingly, it does so without even using the device that seemed key to the short's success.

FilmInk (Australia)

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...a brilliant piece of work that paints the portrait of an all too human response to tragedy building upon tragedy... an absolute treat of a movie.

NZ Herald (Dominic Corry)

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Although often funny, there's an honesty to Cummings' emoting that induces empathy for the character. It's an empathy that carries the film throughout its sparse plot.

Grief changes you each day.

Sometimes it goes away but then it comes back. This is a very open, honest story about living with a bad situation happening to you. You'll never see another like it.