Movie Review: Palm Trees and Power Lines

The coming-of-age picture may be a flexible genre to work within on the big screen. This is true not just in the sense that every new generation will confront its own set of obstacles, but also in the sense that people have always had to overcome issues that are timeless. There are works that investigate how society’s repression may keep its hold on our futures, while other works investigate how rage can become a part of our reality beginning at a young age. The writer and director Jamie Dack’s first feature film, Palm Trees and Power Lines incorporate parts of all of these components in various ways throughout the narrative. Lea, played by Lily McInerny, is a 17-year-old girl who is attempting to discover her place in the world.

The film had its global premiere at the Sundance Film Festival of the previous year and examines the life of Lea in a way that is both sensitive and definitive. The first part of the story takes place in the Southwest over the summer vacation, and it begins with her experiencing feelings of alienation from her friends and frustration with her difficult mother. She makes eye contact with Tom (Jonathan Tucker) while she is out late one night at a diner, and he winks at her as he walks out the door. It is a moment that signals the beginning of an uncomfortable trip that is equally as unnerving as any horror film that will be released this year.

Palm Trees and Power Lines Trailer


Tom unexpectedly makes an appearance and seizes the opportunity to play the role of a hero by rescuing Lea from the clutches of an irate worker after she has been abandoned by her immature pals who failed to pay their bills. After that, he tails her into his vehicle and makes several overtures to take her home, but she continues to refuse his offer. Tom responds that he is 34 years old to Lea’s inquiry on his age.

Even when she reacts by telling him that she is just half his age, he still takes her number regardless of what she says. He lets out a sigh as if he can’t believe that he is doing this, but it doesn’t stop him from continuing to expand his power over Lea in any way. What begins as chats in the bed of his truck by the railroad eventually evolves into excursions to the beach and other outings that help to isolate her from practically everyone else she is acquainted with.

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He may not always appear to be scary on the surface; rather, he is more cunning as he intentionally turns up the charm in order to earn her favor. While no one else seems to care about the things that are important to Lea, Tom is the one who approaches her and inquires about her thoughts and the things that she wants out of life. As soon as he starts throwing clues about how they should just go away together, whatever initial hesitation she may have had about spending time with him quickly disappears.

The fact that he is trying to seduce her sets the movie in a precarious position that it will remain in throughout its whole. The fact that Lea does not try to dissuade him from pushing her off of it makes it an even more agonizing thing to watch, despite the fact that we can clearly see that he is going to do so.

The directing of Dack scarcely allows us a chance to catch our breath as the discussion sequences continue to drag on for longer and longer just as they are ramping up the tension. Tom will receive urgent phone calls and messages, which he will explain away as being linked to work; yet, we are not provided with a particularly good notion of what it is that he is working on. When Lea requests to go back to his apartment, he brings her to a poor hotel where they drink alcohol out of Styrofoam cups.


Lea then asks to go back to his place again. He assures me that this will just be a temporary situation, and he provides some lame reason that rings false. The fact that none of this can be described as glamorous is, in and of itself, the purpose. It is not intended to be entirely convincing since he is gauging how much he can exploit her need to feel connected to others through this test. Everything is strategic with the end goal of breaking down her barriers to the fullest extent possible. It gives the impression that he has done this a lot of times before since he understands not to push it too far or too quickly.

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The alarm bells that are ringing louder only get louder when a server later asks Lea directly if she needs help since she recognizes Tom from when he has come to her restaurant with girlfriends in the past. This raises even more concerns than the previous exchange. Once she informs him about it, he walks back inside where he then confronts the woman in an unpleasant manner. The fact that we are not privy to what he says is one example of how the movie accomplishes quite a bit of withholding, but the fact that his mask is beginning to fall makes the quiet all the more unsettling.

Tucker is an excellent example of the sociopath’s ability to manipulate others, which is a defining characteristic of the sociopath personality type. His performance in this part as the character degenerates into being viler while having a smile pasted on his face makes the skin crawl, despite the fact that he had previously done wonderful acting in supporting roles on programs such as Snowfall. In spite of everything, it is McInerny who is the glue that keeps everything else together.

Although she only had a little part in the mediocre television series Tell Me Lies, her performance in this picture, which is her feature film debut, catches the particulars of the character with such accuracy that it seems as though she has been in a great number of movies. She and Dack are responsible for ensuring that the narrative does not ever have a condescending tone toward Lea as a result of the choices she takes.

Instead, it investigates the reasons why she would want to be in a relationship with a man who is so obviously unhealthy for her and tries to figure out what it is about him that she finds so attractive. This is the kind of movie that questions the ways in which cold-hearted onlookers tear apart and evaluate the choices made by those who are being exploited. Instead, it focuses on the more fundamental issues, such as how a confluence of events in her life led her to fall into the trap that Tom had set up for her. Because of this, the conclusion is one that is without a doubt laborious.

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When you consider everything in hindsight, the extent to which it goes might be shockingly unexpected, but it is also depressingly predictable once you have all the facts together. There is a scenario that takes place in a hotel room without any cuts, and although Dack is filming it from a distance, it begins to seem as though one is being suffocated to death. It throws you so totally in Lea’s state of mind that you can sense her longing to be absolutely anyplace else in the world in the way that she is pacing back and forth.


Without getting into too much detail, this then transforms into an expression that goes across her face that is devastatingly vacant as she dissociates from the tension and fixates on something else as a method to cope with it. In spite of the fact that it depicts the most horrifying event that one could see on TV, there is sympathy in the way that it is depicted.

Although it is a completely different genre, it has some similarities to the way that Jennifer Kent depicted violent scenes in her outstanding film “The Nightingale,” including some of the techniques that she used. The method in which the camera is utilized guarantees that, at crucial junctures, we are immersed almost entirely within the perspective of Lea. We are asked to experience each and every feeling that she experiences in its entirety and without prejudice.

Because it goes much beyond the scope of the original movie, you may get the impression that it becomes a little confusing near the conclusion, but that was intentional. It almost acts as a sadly lyrical mirror image of how lost Lea herself is as she attempts to put the pieces of her life back together.

The final scene, all the way up to the last phrase, hits her like a truck when she is suddenly confronted with the notion that it is possible that there are truly no pieces remaining. It leaves destruction in its path, as the psychological and emotional wounds remain for us as an audience just as they do for its core character who is caught up in the clutches of a harsh world.