This offbeat character study was written and directed by its leading man, Jim Cummings, who expanded it from his Sundance-winning short of the same name and proceeded to win the top prize at last year's South By Southwest film festival for the feature version.
Cummings plays a police officer named Jim Arnaud, who in the film's 12-minute opening shot (something of a recreation of the short film) eulogises his recently departed mother at her funeral. It starts out as a pretty standard speech, then it veers in a few strange directions and eventually goes to some highly emotional places, many of them awkwardly intimate, but all of them searingly authentic.
That description applies to the film as a whole, which unflinchingly documents Arnaud's inability to cope in the face of the end of his marriage and his mother's death.
Possessed of the innocuous handsomeness of a sitcom boyfriend, the depth of Cummings' performance sneaks up on you. Many of Thunder Road's most powerful moments consist of him unleashing concentrated torrents of anguish throughout extremely long takes. 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, as Arnaud faces further personal setbacks and battles his ex-wife for custody of their pre-teen daughter.
Hitherto a rather anonymous actor and director of short films, Cummings must be commended for creating his own bravura showcase – Thunder Road hangs entirely on the nuances of his performance, and ably so.
Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson
A gently impactful dramedy that's funny without being arch, and humane without being earnest.