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Thunder Road Review

movie+poster+for+the+full+length+film+Thunder+Road
movie poster for the full length film Thunder Road

Thunder Road is American filmmaker and actor Jim Cummings’ 2016 short film that he later adapted into a full-length film in 2018. Cummings wrote, directed, and starred in Thunder Road. It follows Police officer Jim Arnaud after the death of his mother, while he navigates his relationship with his young daughter Crystal.
Thunder Road is a heavy film; the small-town setting makes it feel personal and the lack of consistent soundtrack throughout only adds to the uncomfortable atmosphere of the movie. Cummings’ performance as Jim is extremely powerful. He portrays a suffering man in a painfully authentic way. The very raw cinematography and lack of excessive jump cuts makes the entire experience of Thunder Road unique.
Jim is a complicated character. Throughout the film’s short run of an hour and a half, he experiences a wide range of emotions and struggles to respond to difficult situations with reasonable reactions. Jim’s instability is shown through the scenes where he is working as a police officer. Near the beginning of the film Jim comes to work after being told by his boss to stay home. When Jim responds to a police call and begins to act aggressively towards the perpetrator, the Chief calls Jim over and reprimands him for coming to work while clearly struggling emotionally. The tone the police chief uses with Jim is quite telling. He talks to Jim like he is speaking with a child. This scene makes it clear that this is not the first time Jim has behaved inappropriately. The scenes where Jim is acting as a cop are very tense and some of the most upsetting moments in the film. Even from Jim’s perspective, the one the movie is told through, it’s extremely hard to believe that Arnaud being a police officer is safe for him or for his fellow members of the force.
This aggression and overall instability are contrasted during the scene of Crystal spending the night at Jim’s house. She tries to play a game with him, but he is easily frustrated and gives up quickly, much to his daughter’s disappointment. This is the Jim that we see during most of the movie, easily upset, unfocused, and quick to anger. This relatively unresponsive attitude to Crystal quickly changes when in the morning it is revealed that Jim has been practicing the game alone at night so that he might be able to connect with his daughter. This moment when he plays with her after secretly practicing is deeply moving and one of the most important moments that shows Jim’s soft side and genuine love for his daughter.
The first time we see Jim’s desire to be closer with Crystal is in the opening scene of the film in which Jim is speaking at his mother’s funeral. Jim quickly spirals into his grief and discusses how he didn’t love his mother as well as he wishes he could have. Later in the scene Crystal is upset by Jim’s rather erratic behavior, and he goes to comfort her. He holds his daughter and tries to tell her that everything is ok but snaps a little when his ex-wife tries to take Crystal back. This seemingly small moment only becomes more important as the film progresses, and Jim tries again and again to build a relationship with Crystal. Even as this moment is sweet it is also extremely sad as Jim seems to be attempting to heal his strenuous relationship with his mother even after her death through Crystal.
Jim Cummings deserves much more praise than he has gotten for his talent behind and in front of the camera. Thunder Road is not a movie for everyone, but it leaves a lasting impression. It is a love letter to struggling fathers and anyone working through the grief of losing a parent. The power this film has cannot be overstated, especially when the movie has only a few characters, an intimate setting, and while emotionally complex a simplistic story.

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