‘Palm Trees and Power Lines’ Movie Review [Sundance 2022]: Lily McInerny’s Performance Stuns in Story About the Cycle of Toxic Relationships

Palm Trees and Power Lines is a dark coming-of-age story and cautionary tale. Jamie Dack directs a screenplay that she co-wrote with Audrey Findlay. Actor Lily McInerny delivers an authentic and powerful lead performance alongside Jonathan Tucker’s eerie supporting role. Palm Trees and Power Lines is full of mood but light on story.

‘Palm Trees and Power Lines’ depicts a relationship with an age gap

'Palm Trees and Power Lines' review Lily McInerny as Lea and Jonathan Tucker as Tom looking at each other in the car
L-R: Lily McInerny as Lea and Jonathan Tucker as Tom | Sundance Institute

Lea (McInerny) is a 17-year-old girl who lives with her single mother. She regularly invites men over, leaving Lea feeling like less of a priority. She spends an increasing amount of time with her friend, Amber (Quinn Frankel), and a group of boys. However, Lea often doesn’t approve of their immature shenanigans.

After Lea and her group ditch on paying a bill at a restaurant, she meets a 34-year-old man named Tom (Tucker). He’s attractive, mature, and gives her all the attention in the world. Everything seems perfect. However, Lea discovers that his intentions aren’t exactly what they appear to be.

Jamie Dack’s feature directorial debut is based on a short film

Palm Trees and Power Lines is based on Dack’s short film by the same name. The feature begins by placing the audience in Lea’s world. She’s a typical teenager that watches makeup tutorials, tans, and spends a lot of her time getting involved in antics with her friends. However, she’s a bit more mature than her peers. Lea has sex with a boy in the group, but it’s clear that he doesn’t truly satisfy her.

Lea meeting Tom is a major turning point. However, Findlay and Dack’s screenplay and Dack’s direction make it clear that something isn’t entirely right with him. She views his comments and actions as sweet, but it’s clear that he’s preying on her. Tom frequently tries to relate with Lea on a personal level, although he quickly shows extreme signs of jealousy and control.

Palm Trees and Power Lines displays the strained relationships in Lea’s life. She doesn’t truly have a healthy relationship with anybody around her. These strained relationships and her distrust of others push her directly into Tom’s arms.

‘Palm Trees and Power Lines’ is light on plot, but heavy on message

'Palm Trees and Power Lines' Lily McInerny, Jonathan Tucker, and Jamie Dack on a video call
L-R: Lily McInerny, Jonathan Tucker, and Jamie Dack | Sundance Institute

Social media and some critics pointed out Red Rocket and Licorice Pizza for their relationship age gaps. However, Palm Trees and Power Lines also depicts a large difference in age. Similar to Red Rocket, Dack explores the themes of power and control. Tom constantly exerts both in order to take a form of ownership of Lea.

Incredibly detailed performances elevate Palm Trees and Power Lines. The film is light on plot and doesn’t truly fill its nearly 2-hour runtime. However, McInerny turns in a brilliant performance as Lea. The character reads as authentic and the film’s emotional power is thanks to this excellent performance. Tucker provides the film’s terrifying quality that haunts every scene he shares with McInerny.

Palm Trees and Power Lines is an uncomfortable watch. Dack brings a raw approach to the subject matter that proves efficient. However, it’s a familiar story that doesn’t fully utilize its runtime, leaving the movie with an abundance of empty space. Nevertheless, the Palm Trees and Power Lines ending is a real punch in the gut that remains impactful and important in depicting the cycle of toxic relationships.

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