2018 | Drama | In English | 92 minutes
The film opens with Jim Arnaud’s rambling 12-minute eulogy at his mother’s funeral. He tries playing his mother’s favorite song, Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” on a boombox, but he can’t get it to work. It’s an omen of Jim’s imminent breakdown. His wife Rosalind is filing for divorce. He faces a brutal custody battle for their alienated daughter, Crystal. And, above all, Jim is a police officer who can’t control his rage. He is sent home by the police captain when he viciously assaults a man causing a public disturbance. Rosalind, and her boyfriend Chris, inform Jim that when they win custody, they plan to move far away so Jim will not be able to see Crystal. In court, Jim loses the custody battle when the judge accuses Jim of violent behavior. The judge cites the video taken at the funeral showing Jim to be totally deranged. Jim, thinking his police partner, Nate, destroyed the video, attacks and beats him in the parking lot. Jim is then fired by the police captain. After his outburst, and an emotional visit with his sister, Jim visits his mother’s grave. On his way home, he hears that his ex-wife Rosalind died from an overdose and her boyfriend is gone. Jim and Crystal have only each other. Will Jim be able to handle it? It’s probably his last chance.
Why Screen This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 98% 98%
- Metacritic Score 82% 82%
- South by Southwest Film Festival: SXSW Grand Jury Prize, Narrative Feature
- Seattle International Film Festival: Grand Jury Prize, Best New American Cinema Competition
- Deauville American Film Festival: Grand Prix winner
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Writer-director Jim Cummings’ tale of a policeman on the verge of a nervous breakdown introduces a major talent—and is the indie film you need to see this year. It’s a raw nerve of a movie, uncomfortable and tender and beautifully empathetic to its protagonist. I have seen humanistic American filmmaking’s future, and its name is Jim Cummings.
THUNDER ROAD is one of the first dramas to dig deep into America’s heartland crisis—the crush of the spirit that has emerged from a collapsing job market and drug addiction and the underlying loss of faith. Cummings creates an indelible character who is all tangled up in that disaster. He saves himself by becoming a human being. It’s a relief to stop laughing at him, only to realize that you may want to cry for him.
Cummings manages to piece oddball vignettes into a vivid drama. The ironies of Jim’s story come together so swiftly that they might not register until afterward: Here is a man of the law, who prides himself on order, discipline and respect, falling often hideously short of that standard. Here too is a man who seems on the verge of losing everything—only to suddenly gain something back under dark and puzzling circumstances. It’s doubtful that even the most colorful reportage could be as boldly and fearlessly conceived as THUNDER ROAD, whose greatest asset is its ability to confound expectations at every turn.
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