Thunder Road comes with a nice blend of tragedy and comedy with a marvelous performance from multi-hyphenate Jim Cummings.
The film starts out as Texas police officer Jim Arnaud (Jim Cummings) attends the funeral for his mother, Brenda. I’ll discuss the scene in-depth later but it seemingly sets the tone for what we’re about to see over the next 90 minutes. Despite losing control of his emotions during the funeral, Jim–ignoring his superior–heads back to work with his partner, Nate Lewis (Nican Robinson). This doesn’t end quite well for Jim so it’s back home for a week off.
The core of which deals with his wanting to be a better father to his daughter, Crystal (Kendal Farr). For Jim, he sees his parenting as being something of a love letter to his recently departed mother. Not helping any of this is Jim’s relationship to his estranged wife, Roz (Jocelyn DeBoer). As Jim deals with a custody battle over his daughter, his siblings, Shane and Morgan, are of no help with taking care of things after their mom passed.
Cummings writes, directs, and stars in the film based on his 2016 Sundance-winning short of the same name. You can see the love and care that Cummings has for the project flowing through every frame of this film. It’s one of those films in which we know is something special almost immediately after we begin to watch it.
The funeral service alone is among one of the best scenes we’ll see in theaters all year long. It has the best of both comedy and drama worlds. The scene, which seems to consist of one long take, features Jim Arnaud eulogizing his late mother, Brenda. What makes this scene so funny at times is because of a CD player that doesn’t seem to work. Hint: this is where the film’s title comes from but my guess is that licensing a Bruce Springsteen song costs too much for a low-budget independent film.
I was in the audience during SXSW when the film won the Grand Jury Prize. Unfortunately, I was not able to fit the film into my schedule but started hearing some hype. I was hoping that the film would have played one of the Chicago film festivals prior to release but that would not be the case. Instead, the Chicago premiere came during the final Elevated Films Chicago rooftop screening of the year. I was lucky to have a screener on hand because the weather wasn’t all that great. Unfortunately, the screener started buffering every 10 seconds once it reached the midway point so I’m doing the best I can here.
Don’t let the lack of a major distributor fool you because Thunder Road is the small little indie film that can.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Jim Cummings
CAST: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson, Jocelyn DeBoer, and Macon Blair