Jim Cummings writes, directs and stars in the 2018 indie comedy/drama on a police officers’ grief losing his mother and divorcing his wife. It might not be the ultimate pick-me-up film, but Thunder Road is worth talking about.
Opening with an almost shot-for-shot remake of his 2016 short film of the same name, officer Jim Arnaud (Jim Cummings) tries his best to make a heartfelt speech at his mother’s funeral – eventually dissolving into a breakdown/interpretative dance/honestly who even knows, to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ (from which the film takes its name); without the music. Filmed as a one shot, the roughly 12 minute sequence really does not let you get away from just how awkward it is. I felt empathetic towards him, but at the same time couldn’t help but try to stifle a laugh or two because it feels out-of-place.
“I wanted to do something about the hardest moment in somebody’s life, and then make a comedy out of it.” Explains Jim Cummings in an interview with the BFI. “That way, it would give ammunition to people that are going through hell. I’ve had people say they were at a funeral and they thought about me. That’s a weird experience, but it’s cathartic.”
Thunder Road is a film about grief, and everyone reacts to it differently
And the film carries on in a similar strain of bizarre ‘is it okay if I laugh at this?’ sequences, and ones you know are definitely tearjerkers. If you’re not 100% sure how to react to the film then join the gang – but I think that’s what he’s going for here. Thunder Road is a film about grief, and everyone reacts to it differently. The unknowingness of how we react to grief translates into the unknowingness of how we should react to Thunder Road, something I can’t say I’ve ever see a film do. The openness of emotion and struggle in his performance is a welcoming attempt in dismantling threads of toxic masculinity that have so often run throughout cinema, and the healthy friendship between men, forgiving and helping each other through their problems and grief, is just as good to see.
Thunder Road was off the beaten-track in its development. When he was paying $1,000 to use the song in the short film, it was paid to Springsteen – who owns his own music – and evidently this had an effect on the feature film. Thunder Road was a Kickstarter project that raised $190,000 to make the short film full length, and despite interest in the films initial screenings, they went against the studio systems and distributed it themselves. We never hear the Springsteen classic in the full film – an acoustic version of Bon Iver’s Skinny Love sees us out – but its legacy feels engrained in the story itself.
You can watch the short film of Thunder Road here, and the feature length film is available on Netflix now.
Last modified: 17th April 2020