This review was originally published as part of our London Film Festival coverage on 09/10/2018.
As a writer-director-star of any given movie, you’re walking a fine line between uncompromising artistic vision and vanity project, the difference generally coming down to a simple matter of quality. Luckily for Jim Cummings, the key creative voice behind and in front of the camera here, Thunder Road is fantastic.
We first meet Jim (Cummings) at his mother’s funeral. In one astonishing long take, he delivers a eulogy that runs the gamut from heartfelt tribute to a hilarious but excruciatingly ill-advised dance that attempts to honour her but looks like a cry for help. Cummings the director treats Cummings the actor ruthlessly, never cutting away, suffocating awkwardness and desperation lingering throughout.
Jim is dealing with his loss poorly, and it coincides with the final phase of an acrimonious divorce and the revelation that his nine-year-old daughter Crystal (Kendal Farr) is struggling with reading in class. These unhappy situations weigh heavier and heavier on Jim, and his not-entirely-voluntary compassionate leave from the local police force separates him from his best friend Nate (Nican Robinson).
Thunder Road is a film with a minute focus, keeping the stakes high as we invest further and further into Jim’s wellbeing. Cummings’ writing is superb – dense and sad and very, very funny – and his performance matches the dialogue perfectly, brilliantly drawing a man in very real crisis. It’s a deeply human and grounded film; the most “action-packed” set pieces are merely Jim and Nate dealing with drunk and disorderlies.
After pinballing between tragic and funny, Thunder Road goes directly for weepy territory in its finale and hits its target. Cummings’ world absorbs you completely, and you desperately want to see every character live their best life. That’s an achievement generally reserved for long-running TV – Jim Cummings does it in under 90 minutes.
CAST: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson, Jocelyn DeBoer, Macon Blair
DIRECTOR: Jim Cummings
WRITER: Jim Cummings
SYNOPSIS: A police officer comes to grips with the death of his mum when giving a heartfelt eulogy at her funeral.