Hateful at the thought that his daughter should experience any pain, there is a moment in Thunder Road where the kind-natured cop James (Jim Cummings) rescinds a comment made by him to his soon-to-be-ex-wife Rosalind, wishing for her and her new partner to be crushed by a train.
James’ pleasant demeanour is intersected with his habit for taking conversations in unexpected directions, often needing to collect himself mid-conversation or follow sentences up with hyper-kindness. It is when James’ ability to be a father is called into question that we see his gentle nature become hostile, resulting in microaggressions and the deflection of negative comments being hurled back at others.
This sweet-and-sour humour is where Thunder Road doubles down and finds its stride, delivering a touching portrait on what it means to be human.
Thunder Road is a feature-length adaptation of a short film that was also written and directed by Cummings that focused on a man’s erratic behaviour while giving a eulogy at his mother’s’ funeral. Donning a jet-black police uniform and a sharp moustache as if he starred in Super Troopers, Cummings delivery of a twelve-minute monologue is incredibly moving, setting the tone for the remainder of the film and giving reference to the titular Bruce Springsteen song that inspired the title.
Cummings ability to draw himself in and out of hysterics (some high pitch crying sounds like a boiling kettle) and go from gentleman-father to being thrown into the heat of police work shows great promise from the up-and-comer.
The delicate fragility of Cummings character building to a crescendo that puts its audience through an emotional wringer works thanks to a willingness from Cummings to make himself vulnerable, and by effectively conveying the resentment James feels toward a city that has given him nothing but pain.
Reminiscent of how Taika Waititi transformed Boy into a feature-length film, Thunder Road succeeds in expanding the twelve-minute short it derives from thanks to a star-making performance from Cummings and a heartfelt narrative that speaks to the experience of loss and the matter which we lose ourselves in grief.
Thunder Road is currently screening in selected cinemas in Melbourne and Perth, and screens in selected cinemas in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart from Thursday 25 April 2019. For more information, visit: www.au.rialtodistribution.com for details.
Image: Jim Cummings stars in Thunder Road (supplied)
Review: Hagan Osborne