Jim Cummings stars in, writes and directs Thunder Road, that’s in UK cinemas now.

Certificate: 15
Director: Jim Cummings
Cast: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson
Release date: Out now
Reviewer: Jordan King

Thunder Road, director Jim Cummings’s feature debut, is a tragicomedy absorbed in the ingloriousness of grief and the attempts we make to salvage pride in our darkest moments. The film follows police officer Jim Arnaud (Cummings) who, following the death of his mother, finds himself struggling to keep things together. He at once wishes to keep her memory alive, be a father to his young daughter Crystal – played with startling guts and maturity by eight-year-old Kendal Farr – maintain a functioning relationship with his drug-addicted ex-wife, and keep his job as “one of the good guys”.

Opening with a 12-minute long shot, a reimagining of the award-winning short that inspired this feature, Cummings sets out plainly the monumental challenge just making it through the days ahead will be for Arnaud. As he attempts to eulogise his beloved mother, Arnaud shifts and cracks, meanders and manically scrambles towards a rendition of her favourite song. Every missed breath, stifled tear, voice crack and deftly woven piece of anecdote that precedes that point assures us we are in the presence of a magnetic artist. And, as the scene pendulously swings between comedy and nail-scraping agony, an emotional nosedive at its peak sends us straight into the realms of genius, with a broken CD player and a drunk-uncle-at-a-wedding dance branding the film upon our collective memory.

What follows, as we watch Arnaud fall apart and lose everything in the most awkward and often comic ways is cathartic to say the least, and in watching him fight to put his life back on track we are presented with both a deeply nuanced exploration of blue-collar masculinity in modern America and a mirror that reflects the lowest points we all face in our lifetimes. What makes Arnaud’s story such a compelling one is that he is just a man going through hell, trying to keep on going and make his mother and daughter proud. What makes this film so mesmeric is the humble yet heroic performance from Cummings, who sells every line as if the script’s pages are being torn from his own heart.

Thunder Road takes something deeply human and raw – grief – and reminds us that there is nothing more human than falling apart, because it is only from the floor that we see a way back up. In the process, it announces Cummings as a vital emerging voice in indie cinema, and his film is quite unlike anything else you’re likely to see this year.