The Reel Review
A lonely 17-year-old Southern California girl begins a relationship with a man twice her age, slowly discovering that the man whom she initially sees as the exciting solution to her boring, dreary life is not who he seems, in this chilling drama starring Lily McInerny, Jonathan Tucker and Gretchen Mol.
In her feature film debut, co-writer/director Jamie Dack impressively builds on her similarly titled 2018 short, deftly capturing the slow, subtle intricacies of grooming by sexual predators – as well as the types of children and teens they target. At first, the muscular and handsome Tom charms himself into Lea’s life, offering her the excitement, attention and the stable father figure that she is lacking at home. Frustrated by an inattentive single mother and deadbeat friends, Lea eats it up. Red flags start to appear. But Lea ignores them.
Newcomer McInerny (who in real life is 24) and Tucker (Westworld, The Ruins, The Deep End) both deliver haunting, chillingly realistic performances as the emotionally damaged teenager who feels worthless and the manipulative predator who sleazily exploits her. With an ending that is both sickening and chilling, Palm Trees and Power Lines is a cautionary tale that should be seen by all young people and their parents. You just may want a shower afterwards.
• Director Jamie Dack says she and co-writer Audrey Findlay loosely based the concept for the story on Dack’s own relationship with a 34-year-old man when she was 17.
• Palm Trees and Power Lines received four 2023 Independent Spirit Award nominations – for Best First Feature Film, Best First Screenplay, Best Breakthrough Performance (Lily McInerny) and Best Supporting Performance (Jonathan Tucker).
• If you or someone you know is the victim of sex trafficking call 911 or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733.
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