There's a reason that Thunder Road has been one of the most award-winning films on the festival circuit this year from its Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature at SXSW to its Grand Jury Prize for New Director at Nashville Film Festival to its Grand Jury Prize for New American Cinema at Seattle International Film Festival and numerous others including its status as a Narrative Feature Finalist at the 2018 Heartland International Film Festival in Indianapolis.
It's a damn fine film.
You want a film that will make you laugh?
You want a film that will make you cry?
You want a film that will make you think?
You want a film that will just plain entertain you?
Check all the boxes. Thunder Road is just that good.
In fact, it's even better.
Written, directed by and starring Jim Cummings as Officer Arnaud, Thunder Road is based on Cummings' Sundance-winning short film and follows Officer Arnaud's journey to raise his daughter as a love letter to his late mom.
That's it. It's both that simple and that complex.
Facing a personal meltdown following the death of his mother and a pending divorce, Cummings' Officer Arnaud is the kind of character you watch and you never quite forget. He's the kind of character that could have so easily been turned into a caricature, yet somehow Cummings never lets that happen.
Never. Not once.
Officer Arnaud is funny. He's sad. He's sweet. He's troubled. He's complex. He's lots of things, but he's never a caricature and you can't help but love him for that as he struggles.
He struggles to deal with the wife who left him a year earlier as a single parent, now with a boyfriend who decides that daughter would be better off away from him.
He struggles to deal with the death of his mother, whom you guess was an emotional caregiver of sorts for a man who isn't particularly good at managing his emotions.
He struggles to deal with daily life and daily emotions and just day-to-day.
Yet, he tries. He tries so hard and you can't help but love him for that effort.
You want him to get it right. You almost need him to get it right.
Okay, I needed for him to get it right.
Officer Arnaud is like that friend we all have who deserves so much but, more often than not, they get so little.
It's almost amazing that Thunder Road works as well as it does, a rather remarkable combo of Lowell A. Meyer's top notch lensing, Brian Vannucci's intuitive editorial work, Charlie Textor's stellar production design, and an ensemble cast that is so damn good you kind of want to spend more time with them. Cummings gives nothing short of a tremendous breakout performance as Officer Arnaud, while Kendal Farr gives one of the best child performances of the year as his daughter Crystal.
The rest of the cast? They're simply amazing.
Thunder Road is easily one of the best films of 2018 - not just here at Heartland but anywhere. Seriously. If it plays in Malawi, it wins Malawi. If it plays in the Pitcairn Islands? It wins there, too.
I loved this film. I want to watch it again.
Like right now.
Thunder Road is screening at the following times during the 2018 Heartland International Film Festival. Jim Cummings himself will be here. You should probably hug him.
- Oct. 12th @ 4pm at AMC Castleton Square 14
- Oct. 15th @ 2:30pm at The Toby at Newfields
- Oct. 19th @ 8pm at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
- Oct. 20th @ 1:15pm at AMC Castleton Square 14
- Oct. 21st @ 1:15pm at AMC Castleton Square 14
For ticket information, visit the Heartland Film website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic