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Release Date: 03/03/23 [Sundance Film Festival '23]
Genre: Drama

Studio: Momentum Pictures

"A disconnected teenage girl enters a relationship with a man twice her age. She sees him as the solution to all her problems, but his intentions are not what they seem." 


Jamie Dack’s feature film, based on her own 2018 short film of the same name, starts off with familiar air. A teenage girl in a sleepy town suffers with a strained relationship with her mother. She surrounds herself with friends who dabble in drugs and promiscuity. She is, in essence, the prime target for an older man with ill intentions. The ideal victim. And it’s that familiar story that numbs us to what is about to come.


Lily McInerny plays Lea who, at age 16, is already world weary. She has no father figure to speak of, and her mother (Gretchen Mol) bounces from boyfriend to even sketchier boyfriend. It is of little surprise when she enters into a forbidden affair with 34-year-old Tom (Jonathan Tucker) after a “chance encounter” at a restaurant. Tucker, for his part, plays a Grade A creeper. It’s an award-worthy portrayal of a predator if I’ve ever seen one, especially considering that an illegal relationship is only skimming the surface of what is really going on here.


Writers Jamie Dack and Audrey Findley find moments of color, albeit unnerving ones, in a dull and muted pallet. From minute one, we are brought into Lea’s wearisome and melancholy world. We are, quite frankly, as anxious as she is for some excitement. Lulled into a false sense of security, we are taken aback – just like Lea – when we discover Tom’s true intentions.


It’s an important story to tell, and it’s told head on. There's not a lot of nuance here, and some of the dialogue does begin to border after-school-special territory. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if portions of the film go on to be shown in high schools. While not without flaws, Palm Trees and Power Lines puts a spotlight on a horrifying reality in America, and it does it in a way that will make your skin crawl. 

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