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  Thunder Road The Crying PolicemanBuy this film here.
Year: 2018
Director: Jim Cummings
Stars: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson, Jocelyn DeBoer, Chelsea Edmundson, Macon Blair, Ammie Masterson, Bill Wise, Jordan Ray Fox, Frank Mosley, Jacqueline Doke, Chris Doubek, Tristan Riggs, Kevin Olliff, Marshall Allman, Cassandra L. Small
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Officer Jim Arnaud (Jim Cummings) has been recently bereaved, and today is the day of the funeral of his mother, which he attends without his two siblings. Because he never really opened up to his mother about how much he appreciated her, and the enormous guilt he feels about not treating her better throughout his childhood even though she brought him and his brother and sister up as a single parent, the grief is hitting him hard. Therefore when he is given the chance to say a few words about her during the ceremony, he stands before the mourners and basically makes a complete fool of himself with a rambling monologue frequently interrupted by his crying...

Which was more or less how the original short film, also called Thunder Road, played out a couple of years before this expanded version was released, taking it as the jumping off point for a series of increasing personal tragedies and an inability to cope that was extremely embarrassing for Jim, and all those around him. Except he is not alone - every so often we see someone else in a personal crisis, though the point is there is no one to help them, either because they cannot accept help, or because those people have no idea of how to react or cope with someone who is suffering, and suffering a breakdown in this and many cases. Certainly Jim's family offer very little assistance.

The best he has is his police partner, Nate (Nican Robinson), who is sympathetic to his friend's rough patch, but again, has no concept of what to do when Jim flies off the handle or tries to push him away. It was this sense of not simply one man floundering, but that floundering turning into an epidemic across the world with nobody having any idea of how to stem these angst-ridden souls' anguish, that marked Thunder Road out; the protagonist really needs a counsellor at the very least, what he gets is anger from his other work colleagues, indifference from the wife and child he is separated from, and the general impression that there are no authorities to turn to either.

And yet, while this could have been ninety minutes of utter misery, there was something about it that quite often made you laugh. Cummings' frequent dissolving into barely coherent, tearful flailings should have been pathetic, yet as they are his sole method of blowing off steam for his character, they become a curious running joke. As a director, he was fond of the long take: like the short, that opening sequence is over ten minutes of practically a one-man show, and it is compelling, though when Cummings repeats the trick with some regularity, it is in danger of overplaying his hand, no matter how strong that hand was. That he managed to keep the audience on side, unless you were expecting a real kneeslapper of a laff riot, was a feat in itself, and spoke to his understanding of Jim.

Each scene was a little gem of near-excruciating discomfort, but in a good way, if you follow. After making an exhibition of himself at the funeral and having to be persuaded the mourners did not really need to see him dancing without music in front of the casket (his mother ran a local dance school), Jim heads off to work, reassuring Nate he is fine when he patently is not. When his boss (Bill Wise) appears at an arrest and orders him to go home because he is not fit for duty, it is the cue for a downward spiral as everything the poor man held dear is stripped from him, including in one instance literally as his uniform has to be returned. We worry a man with access to a firearm as part of his job may use it on himself, or worse, somebody else, and part of that tightrope the film walked was the balancing act between fearing the worst and hoping for the best, while acknowledging that sometimes things just get so bad you have to laugh. Yet its portrait of a society falling apart in little pieces did resonate.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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