PALM TREES AND POWER LINES – Review by Sherin Nicole
Aesthetically, Palm Trees and Power Lines has a timeless quality. If not for the mobile phones, it could take place in any decade since the late 60s. For me, that combined with themes of grooming and manipulation caused it to play as part of a movie marathon in my head. Jamie Dack’s film belongs in the same conversations as Pretty Baby, Kubrick’s Lolita, My Own Private Idaho, and Fish Tank. Yet even as Palm Trees and Power Lines denies bombast for an unwavering slice-of-predatory-life, I’m less confident in talking about it. Can I be honest? When it comes to a story this necessary, should I be honest?
You’ll hear “disturbing” or “cautionary tale.” I do not deny those things are true. Palm Trees and Power Lines does not caution so much as scream to be shared with young women, so they might recognize the trap of a hunter before falling prey. The presentation is often yellowed and at times cast in greyed darkness, with an almost dingy grain that suggests what lies within is tainted. That is another truth. Equally undeniable, the ending is as ominous as a razor blade across the carotid.
Seventeen-year-old Lea, played with distressing veracity by Lily McInerny, moves through her summer break like a phantom. She is unseen and that makes her vulnerable. Society tells young women they should glorify being chosen, even while mocking the “pick-me girls.” The charismatic Tom (Jonathan Tucker) only needs to show Lea she matters. She puts up a front but is a goner when the thirty-four-year-old chooses her (no matter for what) because that is validation. The callous treatment Lea receives from her friends widens the gap and Tom slips right in. Tucker’s performance hides malice beneath a methodology so smooth you’ll know it’s automatic; Tom is a practiced groomer.
It makes you want to shriek, but the primary tension in Palm Trees and Power Lines is locked into its themes, the baited hook, and its final scene. In between, I found myself waiting for the denouement. The story is realistic and compassionately told but not revelatory, and yet I champion it as a cautionary tale for those who wouldn’t otherwise recognize dangers like this—but should be well advised.