THUNDER ROAD gets 7/10 Just a small town boy

Directed by Jim Cummings

Starring Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson


The death of his mother and the dissolution of his marriage sends Officer Jim Arnuad (Jim Cummings) into a spiral. As he struggles for equal custody of his daughter, Crystal (Kendal Farr), he is plagued by issues both at work and at home. Soon his life begins to unravel and Jim begins to experience a personal meltdown.

Director Jim Cummings serves double duty here, both behind and in front of the camera as the central character. Although not a particularly nuanced performance, it is one that manages to sell the tragic comedy of the piece. As an audience we can see Officer Arnuad faking it, we are just unsure that he’ll be able to keep it up till he makes it, as the ground constantly shifts from under him. His chemistry with Farr (his daughter Crystal) and Nican Robinson (his much put out patrol partner) also help in this regard.

The focus of Thunder Road is on Cummings as Arnuad. As the film opens it tracks in on him (a technique that is frequently repeated throughout the run) showing a man clearly in distress, but trying to cope as best he can, with limited skills and little success. It is the comedy of tragedy, and something that is repeated through every scene, as Cummings appears in almost all of them. Rarely does the film break from its central character, and due to the obvious distress this can often be a painful experience. It is a fine line that Cummings walks here, as there is also the blackest humour poised on a knife edge of tragedy and poignant human expression.

Yet this is not cruel exploitation of a character’s pain for a laugh. As an audience we empathise with Arnuad no mater how ridiculous his attempts to plaster over the disaster of his life is, or how unconvincing the veneer of bravado. We’ve all smilingly lied about being fine, we’ve all been hopelessly out of our depths trying to cope with work and family, and we’ve all felt like we were drowning in the day to day minutia. Cummings makes us realise we are not alone, and given distance, may not be any worse off than others. It is something we can all relate to, but it is also a warning to seek help, and to look from the other’s perspective.