Thunder Road

COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 32min

STARRING: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson

Forget me not: Cummings

In an opening eulogy—delivered, incredibly, in one long and wrenching take—small-town police officer Jim Arnaud (Cummings) powers through a firestorm of flayed emotions while paying tribute to his late mother. (She loved Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”, a detail that Officer Arnaud will live to regret.) Overwhelmed by grief, Jim is awkward, scatty, tragic and ridiculous, and writer-director-star Cummings, who developed this piercing assessment of a broken soul from his 2016 short film, is the human definition of a car crash. He’s confronting, transfixing and impossible to turn away from.


The eulogy sets the bar for the remnants of Jim’s life. A good man reduced by a cluster of failure and loss to a wiry bundle of defensive, angry nerves, he moves through his constricting world as tightly wound as a stopwatch, failing miserably in his struggle to connect with his withdrawn young daughter, Crystal (Farr), and to deal on any rational level with his snippy ex-wife, Ros (Jocelyn DeBoer). 


Every other encounter Jim has is a potential disaster, as well. The blaze of his frustration erupts in spot fires everywhere: in an unhinged encounter with Crystal’s disconcerted teacher (Macon Blair), in a courtroom, while fighting with zero judgment for joint custody of his little girl and in a subsequent, career-killing run-in with his supportive police-force partner, Nate (Robinson). Although at times blackly funny, Cummings’s juggernaut performance, ably supported by an unerring cast, is so obliterative it seems impossible for anything worth having to evolve from Jim’s consuming pain. But to believe that is to sell this beautiful, big-hearted movie short.