Directed by: Jim Cummings
Starring: Jim Cummings, Kendall Farr, Nican Robinson
Screening at LFF: 10th, 11th, 12th, 20th
UK Release Date: Not yet announced
Sometimes going into a film with little prior knowledge results in the biggest of surprises, and that was very much the case with Thunder Road. Jim Cummings’ passion project (he writes, directs, and stars in this) is an extension of his short of the same name from 2016.
In what is perhaps one of the best opening scenes of the year, we meet Jim Arnaud (Cummings) at his mother’s funeral, delivering the greatest eulogy/dance sequence ever. No, really. Veering wildly between emotional hysteria, and deadpan asides, the sequence is nothing short of genius, and immediately establishes the tragi-comedy tone. If you’re not sold from this incredible opening diatribe, then the rest of the film is unlikely to hook you, but it is hard not to be lured in with Cummings enigmatic performance.
What follows is a film which manages to constantly surprise and delight, delving into grief in a very real yet humorous way, and exploring other themes such as the joys and trials of parenthood, and examining what it is to be a man and particularly how men deal with emotions as well.
It’s hard to imagine this film as 15 minute short as it packs a lot in, yet in its exploration of Arnaud as a character, it absolutely flies by. As already mentioned, Cummings is the beating heart of this film, and in his direction in particular, he manages to make the film feel precise as well as wonderfully unhinged. It has something of an unscripted feel, yet the comedy and the writing is so well executed and perfectly timed. There is measure and control to his performance, even when the character is wild and hysterical, and it is a performance which is equal parts insane and sublime. In a just world, he would be receiving awards consideration; it really is that good.
There’s a couple of plot threads which are left open-ended which is a little frustrating, but that aside, this is an accomplished tour-de-force from triple-threat Jim Cummings. As a cinematic exploration of one man’s state of mind and his way of coping with tragedy, this film succeeds. Few films can make you laugh and cry until it hurts – almost in equal measure – and also to the point where it becomes hard to distinguish one from the other. Thunder Road is tragi-comedy in its purest form, striking the perfect balance between the two, and also managing to be both simultaneously. A surprise hit, and honestly for that opening scene alone it is worth a watch!