PALM TREES AND POWER LINES – A Review by Cynthia Flores
These kinds of edgy films will not appeal to a mass audience. It’s not flashy or driven by a slick soundtrack. But it is the perfect film for anyone raising young girls these days. Parents need to see this film to start conversing with their daughters about what to avoid.
Palm Trees and Power Lines has won film festival awards, such as Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay, for its creator Jamie Dack. Also, Best Lead and Supporting Performances for its star Lilly McInery and co-star Jonathan Tucker. That is not bad, considering it started as a short film of the same name.
The film tells the story of seventeen-year-old Lea (Lily McInerny). She spends her summer break aimlessly tanning in her backyard with her best friend Amber (Quinn Frankel). Lea is more thoughtful and less developed than the voluptuous tomboy Amber. However, both like to hang out, get stoned, and drink with a group of boys from school. Unfortunately, her mother, Sandra (Gretchen Mol), has no idea that Lea is drinking, getting high, and having casual, meaningless sex with one of the boys she hangs out with.
The relationship between Sandra and her daughter Lea is pretty sad and, unfortunately, symptomatic of a busy single mom. However, Sandra doesn’t really abuse her. Instead, she swings between being super clingy when she’s between boyfriends and outright neglecting her gangly teen when she has someone to date and screws at home.
The drudgery of the summer is interrupted by a chance encounter with Tom (Jonathan Tucker). He’s a good-looking man twice her age. He promises an out to Lea’s boring teenage life. But as things progress between them, red flags about his life begin to surface. Lea, unfortunately, chooses to ignore them. Under Tom’s influence, Lea begins to see her mom as unfit and her friends as a waste of her time. Isolated from everyone around her, Lea discovers Tom’s true intentions and finds herself in a situation she could never have imagined.
Palm Trees and Power Lines is a slow-paced, marvelously acted study on adolescent vulnerability and how that can be exploited. In the published director’s statement, Jamie Dack said the following as to why she created this story-
“Any need can be used to control someone, whether it’s financial, emotional, or physical. My goal was to tell a singular story about how one girl finds herself in a destructive relationship with a man twice her age.”
She goes on to say,
“By telling this story in an intimate, naturalistic way, I believe that many women will recognize themselves in at least part of Lea’s experience. It doesn’t require extraordinary circumstances to be exploited. I wanted to paint a picture of how easily even a marginally vulnerable person can fall prey to this type of abuse.”
I really enjoyed this film. It’s not easy to watch sometimes, but it is worth the discomfort it sometimes makes you feel. I think the cinematography of Chananun Chotrungroj works well with the pacing of this film. Even when the sun is shining, and the girls are tanning, the colors are muted, with giant power lines dotting the skyline. Also, what a treat to be the first to become a fan of Lily McInerny. She is an actress that was discovered while still in college. This film is her feature debut. And judging by her raw and superb job bringing her character Lea’s heartache to life. This won’t be the last time we see her on the big screen.
I give Palm Trees and Power Lines 4.5 stars. It’s a modern morality tale of how young girls can end up in places they don’t belong.
Directed by: Jamie Dack
Written by: Jamie Dack, Audrey Findlay
Selig Rating: 4.5 Stars
Running Time: 1hr 50min
Limited Release: Angelika Film Center & Cafe – Dallas
Starring: Lily McInerny, Gretchen Mol, Jonathan Tucker, Quinn Frankel
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.
4 Stars – Good movie/show
3 Stars – OK movie/show
2 Stars – Well, there was nothing else…
1 Star – Total waste of time.