Palm Trees and Power Lines, like last year’s You Mean Everything to Me, puts coercive control in its crosshairs. If the thought of a 34-year-old man getting with a 17-year-old girl makes your stomach churn, just wait until the final act, when the film approaches a whole new level of uncomfortable. Lily McInerny and Jonathan Tucker play opposite each other with a fascinating power dynamic interplaying between them.
Lea (McInerny) has had it with the monotony of her high school existence, hanging out with the same stoner friends, and going through the motions via some very vanilla car sex with her immature hookup. In the wake of a dine-and-dash, Tom (Tucker), a much older man, offers Lea a ride home. Almost immediately, he observes that Lea is more mature than her friends, and that Lea needs people “more on her level.” After dropping her off, he offers his phone number, just in case she ever needs a ride again.
Tom’s presence and attention seems to be exactly what Lea needs. Tom claims to have a small business and works for himself, and urges Lea to explore her singing talent. The two initially seem like they could be good for one another, had the relationship stayed platonic. Progression happens far too quickly between them despite the age gap. Writer/director Jamie Dack directs the scenes between the two with an intimacy fueled by personal connection rather than one crackling with sexual tension.
Palm Trees and Power Lines contains some disturbing sexual content, as warned by the Sundance Festival, so I was unsure of what to expect going in. Needless to say, the film goes to dark places. I am a fan of Jonathan Tucker, having loved his performances in Kingdom, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Ruins, and his performance as Tom allows an entire unseen nuance to his acting prowess. Newcomer Lily McInerny is equally fantastic. The two leads help to sell a slightly frustrating conclusion. While it may not be my absolute favorite film from this year’s Sundance lineup, Palm Trees and Power Lines is doubtless one powerful piece of filmmaking.
Palm Trees and Power Lines revealed its true intentions when it debuted at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.