IMDb Link: Palmer (2021)
Director: Fisher Stevens
Writer: Cheryl Guerriero
Starring: Justin Timberlake, June Squibb, Alisha Wainwright
Synopsis: An ex-convict strikes up a friendship with a boy from a troubled home.
It is nice to see Justin Timberlake taking on dramatic roles again after taking a few years off. He has proven himself in the past to be a good actor when given the roles to show off his capabilities, and he is given all of the opportunities here as Eddie Palmer, an ex-convict who finds himself looking after a young boy. He sells the role and gives the character the emotional range to see his struggles and fully connect with him, something that is absolutely needed for a story like this.
This is the break-out film for young star Ryder Allen, who plays the young boy Sam. The writing of this character is so well done, and Ryder pulls off the material incredibly well. It is a child performance that feels so natural, focusing on small moments that do impact children and touching on some important themes through the character of Sam.
The writing of this film is incredibly well done. There are moments where the film feels like it’s leaning into familiar territory, but even when that happens the story has an impact. There are few films that are willing to approach the subject matter of gender identity and the bullying that comes from that, and yet this film knows how far to go and what the focus of the story should be about. Instead of the final destination or assigning labels, the story focuses more on acceptance and letting children be themselves.
The subplot surrounding the story is the issue of Sam’s mother and her situation. Instead of shaming and hating on her because of her addiction and her living situation, the film takes a more sensitive approach to the subject matter. The script instead focuses on the protection of Sam first, whilst also making it clear that his mother does love him. It is a story that wants to encourage those with addiction to improve themselves and get better, rather than focusing on punishing them and saying they are irredeemable. This is such an important message that, once again, the film handles extremely well.
The direction is quite simple here, sticking to the main narrative and letting the story shine. There are a few moments, however, which are incredibly well directed and perfectly paced. This is such an easy film to stick on and get invested into, never letting your attention slide for the runtime. It also felt like the perfect runtime, saying exactly what it had to say but also letting go at the right moments. Whilst a few of the moments can be hard to watch, they are so well done and necessary for the story to move forward.
I was not aware of this film’s existence until about a week ago, but I am so glad I was given a chance to find it. This is going to be one of the hidden gems of the year, with fantastic performances throughout and an incredibly tight script that works on so many levels. This is a necessary watch for anyone and I hope that this review convinces you to give it a watch.
Palmer is available to watch on Apple TV on the 29th of January.