Thunder Road is a sweet short film directed, produced and performed by Jim Cummings with hints of comedic relief scattered within. The plot description is simple: taking place at his mother’s funeral, Officer Arnaud goes up to give his eulogy, but, being a simple and plain-spoken man, he decides he needs a little help from a boom box and his friend, Bruce Springsteen. This is where the title of the film ties in with the story line when he plays Thunder road to the mourning crowd. The film was so amazingly executed it won an award in 2016 at the Sundance awards show for films.
Thunder Road shares a certain vagueness that is commonly seen amongst many other award winning short films. The film portrays an effortlessly appearing film style that allows it to seamlessly shift between each genre in a way that can be exhausting for full length productions.
“We shot 6 full takes of it, 2 we had to cut short because we all started laughing.” – Jim Cummings
In a certain light, Thunder Road is a heart-string tugging tragedy of raw grief on display, and Arnaud’s inability to express it is pitiable. In another light it is purely, and uproariously funny and comedic.
“I had wanted to make something like the movies that I loved that made me laugh and cry at the same time” – Jim Cummings
Plot: The plot of the film is the comedic and emotional ride an officer goes through while mourning and commemorating the life of his dead mother at her funeral, where he performs her favourite song Thunder Road followed with an ensemble where it gets out of hand and is cut short. This type of plot resembles closely to the plot style, red herring this is when the protagonist in this case being Officer Arnaud is Diverting attention away from an item of significance. In Thunder Road, the attention is diverted away from the grief of the audience and the casket to Arnaud during his performance.
Perspective: The perspective in a film Is the way in which the story is being told. Thunder Road is only being told from the protagonist, Arnaud, as if he is telling the story himself. This is called First-person narration. It is very rare to hear from any other sub-actors in the duration of the film, putting emphasis on this one-sided story.
The most memorable scene is the performance of the song Thunder Road which his mother claimed was her favourite. On the fringe of the shot we can see someone is recording his performance on their iPhone as the camera is pulling back into a wider shot of officer Arnaud’s routine. In this moment, it is possible to feel empathy because it is no longer a private and raw moment of emotional vulnerability between a son and a deceased parent. The song and dance now has the ability to be posted on media platforms for laughs and the ability to go viral, taking away the grief associated with a funeral ceremony.
Arnaud’s song (which was sung by his mother in his early years) essentially evoked a sense of freedom and leisure to his mother, therefore, in a sense, the actions that Arnaud portrays to the song are a tribute to his mother internal feelings of liberty and power associated with the lyrics and instrumental backdrop of the music. Furthermore, the dance that Arnaud showcases further accentuates the idea of freedom that his mother so fervently seeks. In the second section of the film, for a brief moment, a cop who weighs the responsibilities of the law and citizens has a chance to also behave as a human and feel the freedom his mother once loved to dream about. And although the actions are perceived as an embarrassing and awkward they are overall a recognition of his internal being.
The 3-act dramatic structure isn’t always leaned on when creating story lines for any production with a plot. This traditional style of script writing evidently showcases why not all writers and directors follow this structured procedure.
The first act is usually used for exposition, to establish the main characters, their relationships and the world they live in. Later in the first act, a dynamic, on-screen incident occurs that confronts the main character
In the short film thunder road, officer Arnaud is the protagonist throughout the production. During the early scenes of the film the audience is informed that Arnaud is grieving the death of his mother which whom he was not very close with, but demonstrated an emotional attachment when trying to move past her death.
The second act, also referred to as “rising action”, typically depicts the protagonist’s attempt to resolve the problem initiated by the first turning point, only to find him- or herself in ever worsening situations.
This stage of the dramatic structure is incorporated within the film when Arnaud is trying to express his deep emotions by performing his mother’s favourite ensemble of song and dance to thunder road. This is evident in the scene where Arnaud tries to start up the boom box, this is where plot goes south and the disc starts skipping and Arnaud loses his temper and begins to curse, creating tension throughout the fellow mourners.
The third act features the resolution of the story and its subplots.
When following this dramatic structure, the third acts states a resolution in the end, however in this case, the film stays awkward and tense throughout. This tension stirs away from the conventional ending of traditional story plots.
In the final analysis, it is understood why this short film won a Sundance award with the evidently hard work and dedication Jim Cummings put into writing, directing and acting in the short production. He took risks with the way it was executed perfectly in an untraditional one take method of filming, and stood out in the way in which he morphed two contrasting genres into one amazing short film.