Thunder Road (5 stars)

Thunder Road

Emotionally raw and excruciatingly funny portrait of a flailing cop, from debut director Jim Cummings

Bruce Springsteen's songs capture the hope, disappointment and sorrow of the American Dream in one fell swoop. Jim Cummings' stirring debut feature not only references the singer's 1975 working-class anthem in its title, but it plays out as a passionate tribute to anyone struggling in the face of economic hardship. In the Boss' world, screen doors slam, lovers take off down dusty beach roads and family is key. Here, Springsteen's lyrics are a starting point for an emotionally raw and excruciatingly funny portrait of modern American society.

Cummings writes, directs, co-edits and assumes the lead role; he plays Officer Jim Arnaud, a cop in the midst of a breakdown, who's struggling with grief following the death of his mother, whilst also dealing with a messy divorce and custody battle.

Shot for $180k and part funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Cummings is expanding on a single-take short – winner of prizes at Sundance and SXSW – which sees Jim sing his heart out and dance at his mum's funeral, with Cummings somehow making Jim's pain and the associated comedy even more agonising to watch this time around. His performance hits that sweet spot where you feel nothing but compassion for a man who shouldn't be in possession of a gun, but who is trying his best to provide a good life for his daughter Crystal (Kendal Farr).

In this hugely exciting first film, themes of masculinity and parenthood are explored through an unforgettably eccentric, highly fragile character who wears his heart on his sleeve and strings his sentences together like he's running out of oxygen. Employing lingering shots which recall the work of Robert Altman, Cummings locates the humour and humanity in a calamitous and desperately lonely person who, even at his lowest ebb, never loses sight of the promised land.

General release from Fri 31 May.

Thunder Road

  • 5 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Jim Cummings
  • Cast: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson, Macon Blair, Jocelyn DeBoer, Chelsea Edmundson, Ammie Leonards, Bill Wise

Jim Arnaud (Cummings) is a cop struggling with grief after his mother’s death, who’s also dealing with a messy divorce and custody battle. Cummings’ debut feature as writer-director-star is a raw and excruciatingly funny portrait of masculinity and parenthood, as Jim tries to provide a life for his daughter (Farr).