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Review: Thunder Road

Raquel Bartra gives you her views on Jim Cummings's feature debut.

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Image Credit: Vertigo Releasing

Director: Jim Cummings
Starring: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson
Length: 1h32m
Rating: 15

Thunder Road is a tragicomedy about Officer Jim Arnaud and his descent into madness following a divorce and the death of his mother. The film is based on a brilliant award-winning short premiered at Sundance in 2016, also written, directed, and performed by Jim Cummings. The opening sequence is outstanding and mimics the short film version - twelve minutes of uncut footage of Jim rambling seemingly incoherent words about his late mother followed by a music-less dance, which leaves everyone at the funeral and the audience at the cinema in a state of utter confusion on whether they are supposed to laugh, cry, scream, leave, or all of the above.

Through the film, Jim goes struggles through all the stages of grief, from denying being upset to taking his frustrations on colleagues. The story is about parenthood and regret, and Jim’s flawlessly executed character pathos is raw and excruciating to watch. As stated at the beginning of the film, Jim regrets not appreciating all the things his mother did for him, for which he tries to focus on his pre-teen daughter who is now only interested in getting her mothers’ breasts and wearing makeup to 4th grade.

Thunder Road takes the spectator through the emotional journey of its protagonist rather than asking them to follow a defined plot. It relies on capturing the audience’s attention through the use of long shots and the creation of awkward moments and conflict, which works quite well for parts of the drama. However, the technique is over-used at points, making the pace plot fall flat. Even though this film is just over 90 minutes it feels like two hours.

The general image of the film is nicely done, and definitely in a low-budget indie way. This is a raw and compelling story, and the cinematography and use of sound complement it very well. Moments of tension usually lack music, making the conflict even more uncomfortable and even comical at times. The stylistic elements of Thunder Road value to both the story and its tone, making it even clearer that this is a tale of a man in despair.

Overall, this is a risky feature not meant to be liked by everyone. With an exceptional script and a mix of humour and real drama, it can be uncomfortable to watch at times, but it definitely depends on who is watching. This is a film that manages to be both complex and conflicting whilst keeping itself simple. Jim Cummings is definitely one to watch in the indie film world.

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