Palmer Movie Review        

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Directed by Fisher Stevens    |   Released 29 Jan 2021  |   Runtime: 1h 50mins

Apple TV are ramping up their slate of original films, this time, bringing Justin Timberlake into the mix. Whilst they still have a long way to go in order to catch up with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, it doesn’t mean that they are not worthy of our attention, far from it in fact, if Palmer has anything to do with it.

Director Fisher Stevens has a lot of documentaries under his belt, including Before the Flood (2016) which gained a lot of recognition with Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the producers. He’s also known for the dark comedy-crime film, Stand Up Guys (2012).

© Apple TV+

Palmer was released digitally on Apple TV+ and centres on a former college football star turned ex-convict who strikes up a friendship with a boy from a troubled home. After leaving jail, Palmer (Justin Timberlake) moves in with his Grandma at a trailer park, and whilst finding a job proves fruitless at first, he’s given an opportunity to get back on his feet as a handyman at the local school. It becomes clear that Grandma Vivian (June Squibb) often takes in and looks after a young boy called Sam (Ryder Allen), thanks to his troubled homelife and lack of care from his drug-addict mother (Juno Temple).

“He ain’t my problem”

– Palmer (Palmer, 2021)

Justin Timberlake has a fair few acting credentials under his belt from over the years, with the likes of Alpha Dog (2006), In Time (2011), and Trolls (2016),  but this one feels special. Clearly a diverse performer, he shines as the character who is tainted by his past actions, but is even more believable as a man trying to find his way and open his heart in the process. Timberlake nails his character’s sense of reflection, and when the film picks up the pace, he is exceptionally likeable as he learns to pick the right kind of fights.

© Apple TV+

Ryder Allen, who plays Sam, is outstanding in his first feature film and it’s thanks to him that it becomes an even more inspiring and enjoyable watch. Allen captures his unique character with such wholeness and magic, as the young boy he plays strikingly challenges the concept of masculinity – Sam loves to play with dolls and dress up as a fairy, but what he, along with the script, is most beautiful at doing is sending a reminder to everyone out there to just be yourself and disregard any boundaries that society bestows upon you.

Allen’s performance offers a wonderful range of skills, through his feistiness in Sam to the heart-breaking moments he endures as a result of bullying. For a young actor, Allen is definitely one to watch over the next few years and it’s commendable how he alone turned the story’s familiar territory into something incredibly touching.

© Apple TV+

“Well I’m a boy, and I do”

– Sam (Palmer, 2021)

After a turn of events, it’s clear on where the story is set to go with Palmer and Sam’s relationship. It’s not cinematically ground-breaking and it’s a little predictable, but we knew that from the opening moments when we met eyes with a stern Timberlake, staring out of the prison window on the bus that’s taking him back to his quiet hometown.

Regardless, Palmer proves to be a gentle and heartfelt film that gradually draws empathy from its audiences. The intense delivery from our main characters is what grounds the film and really pulls you in, with the final moments offering a satisfying yet overwhelming and considerably tear-jerking response.

Available to watch now on Apple TV+

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