Review Written 12/05/2018.
Preceding the screening, Jim Cummings said it’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to cry. I laughed, I cried, and it was brilliant.
Without a doubt the sleeper showstopper of Cannes 2018. I wish more people knew about Cummings’ work, they only just about filled a 350 seat theatre for a man whose work is pure and powerful, yet Godard draws in thousands for an absolute mess just because of the weight of a name.
Thunder Road is absorbed in the inglorious nature of grief, the attempts to salvage pride in our darkest moments and the inexplicable things that we do to try and hold on to what remains and what was lost. To watch police officer Jim Arnaud (Cummings) fall apart and lose everything piece-by-piece in the most absurd and awkwardly comic of ways is cathartic to say the least. For every tear that is shed on screen and off it, there is a laugh that maintains a sense of a bigger picture, a hope for joy in the bleakest of times, and for every anguished monologue there is a human lack of cohesion in Jim’s words, a fallibility in his character that isn’t methodical or a categoric characterisation… he is just a man going through some really tough shit and trying in any which way he can to save himself and his daughter.
The performance from Cummings is exceptional, and the ensemble cast all step up to the plate with memorable performances too, even if they at times are subdued by the magnitude of the tour-de-force work driving the centre and the beating heart of the narrative. Kendal Farr bursts with youthful vibrancy and humour as Arnaud’s daughter, caught between a rock and a hard place whilst trying to figure herself out as a youngster best can, following the likes of young Brooklynn Prince who shone in last year’s The Florida Project, whilst Nican Robinson’s Nathaniel is the perfect middle ground between the craziness of Arnaud’s breakdown and the unimaginable heartbreak… a friend who goes beyond the literal call of duty to see his comrade come through the other side of a complete breakdown.
The long takes are breathtaking and the score subtle and not overlaboured, whilst the editing is tight and the camera perfectly placed to capture every action and, as is often most powerful, reaction. This is a film that is brave in its lack of courage and grace in grief, bold in its imploring for us to laugh at the unimaginably pitiful and cry in the same breath, and proof that only in taking risks can vital new voices in cinema break out. It tears you down to leave you inexplicably, cathartically, reassured by its conclusion. I adored it, don’t miss out.
Thunder Road has no scheduled UK Cinema release but expect digital download to be available soon.
If you enjoyed this review and want to read more articles by myself, click on the LETTERBOXD logo below for reviews and more!
Check out the teaser trailer for the film below as well as the original, masterful short film that inspired it.