After 12 years in prison, former high school football star Eddie Palmer returns home to put his life back together—and forms an unlikely bond with Sam, an outcast boy from a troubled home. But Eddie’s past threatens to ruin his new life and family.
- Eddie Palmer: Justin Timberlake
- Sam: Ryder Allen
- Shelly: Juno Temple
- Maggie Hayes: Alisha Wainwright
- Vivian Palmer: June Squibb
- Jerry: Dean Winters
- Lucille Coles: Wynn Everett
- Tommy Coles: Jesse C. Boyd
- Judge Ellen Antheem: Charmin Lee
- Jake: Jake Brennan
- Principal Forbes: J.D. Evermore
- Daryl Reed: Stephen Louis Grush
- Sibs: Lance E. Nichols
- Social Worker: Stacie Davis
- Toby Reed: Carson Minniear
- Parole Officer: Theodus Crane
- Boy: Hero Hunter
- Ned: Nicholas X. Parsons
- Pastor: Ray Gaspard
- Melissa: Zonia Pelensky
- Emily: Molly Sue Harrison
- Coles Senior: Dane Rhodes
- Bartender Cosimo: Craig Sheffer
- Producer: Charles B. Wessler
- Director of Photography: Tobias A. Schliessler
- Director: Fisher Stevens
- Producer: Sidney Kimmel
- Producer: John Penotti
- Writer: Cheryl Guerriero
- Producer: Charlie Corwin
- Producer: Daniel Nadler
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Streaming services have been growing exponentially, and with the current global pandemic deeply affecting the film industry, studios all around the world started to accept their movies’ fate. Controversy became a banal word in this debate, especially regarding the decision of exclusively distributing blockbusters and highly-anticipated films through Netflix, HBO, Disney+, Apple TV+, and more. Concerning this matter, I will always defend the theater experience as something unique and incomparable with home viewing, at least in a general way. Nevertheless, I think the most comprehensible path to accommodate everyone is to give the viewer both choices, and I firmly believe that would be the new norm, sooner or later.
Why this apparently unrelated prologue? Well, Palmer is exclusively premiering on Apple TV+, which is probably the most underrated streaming service out there. Both their original movies (Wolfwalkers, On the Rocks) and TV shows (Servant) have become more and more successful, and their production quality unquestionably makes dozens of studios jealous. With that in mind, I believe an indie flick with a narrative like Palmer’s would always suffer at the box-office in a standard theatrical distribution, so I’m genuinely glad Apple caught it because I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up as one of my favorite films of the year.
I’ve seen Fisher Stevens before, but never in the director’s chair. I’m surprised at how much this movie positively impacted me. Cheryl Guerriero’s screenplay might not be groundbreaking or incredibly innovative, but it follows an extremely efficient formula that, when written and directed in the right manner, hits most viewers’ hearts. Boasting well-written, captivating dialogues that feel real, Palmer tells a cliche yet fascinating story featuring two exceptionally inspiring characters who can undoubtedly serve as a beautiful influence to many viewers going through similar life issues.
Ryder Allen interprets Sam, a bullied kid with a remarkable amount of self-confidence and pride, even though he lives in a trailer with terrible parents and is made fun of by his school colleagues. He doesn’t let other people control his choices or what he likes, independently of what happens. His will and ultimate happiness in dressing up as a princess, having tea parties, or simply being “different” from everyone else (as described in the film) can have an extraordinary result in the audience, mainly kids. Regarding Ryder’s performance, I have no doubt he will be a heavy contender in categories concerning young actors since he delivers a heartfelt display that made me tear up by the end of the movie.
When it comes to his adult counterpart, Justin Timberlake portrays Eddie Palmer, an ex-convict trying to get back on track after losing over a decade of his life due to an admittedly grave crime. However, as the character is presented and developed throughout the runtime, it becomes relatively easy to emotionally connect with Palmer. Even though his imprisonment was more than fair, Palmer demonstrates to be an altruistic, loving person who truly wants to redeem himself while admitting that he’s far from being considered “normal”, consequently creating an unbreakable bond with Sam. Timberlake genuinely surprised me with a grounded, experienced performance.
In the end, it’s the astonishingly honest connection between Palmer and Sam that elevate the screenplay into such an inspirational narrative. There are other impactful and interesting relationships, namely between Palmer and Maggie Hayes (Alisha Wainwright), as well as between Palmer and his grandmother, Vivian (June Squibb). These characters significantly impact Palmer’s life, and the actresses were up to the task. However, Shelly (Juno Temple) is a terrible parent who I couldn’t feel sorry for, not even after certain acts of compassion that are meant for the viewers to forgive the character. Technically, just a quick praise to Tamar-kali’s subtle score that hit me in the right moments.
I sincerely hope that this Fisher Stevens’ indie flick finds its audience at home because it’s a heartwarming, enlightening, emotionally compelling story of redemption and self-acceptance. Palmer might follow a generic formula that any viewer has seen at least a few dozen times, but Cheryl Guerriero’s well-written, efficient screenplay is brought to life in an incredibly authentic, genuine manner. The wonderful bond between Justin Timberlake and Ryder Allen’s characters is the film’s heart and soul. Both actors deliver outstanding performances, as well as the rest of the cast, but it’s the cliche yet heartfelt narrative packed with meaningful messages that ultimately brings up tears to the eyes. Despite the failed attempt to make the viewer feel compassion for Juno Temple’s character, Apple TV+ offers another highly commendable movie to watch with your family.
- Louisa Moore – Screen Zealots: “Palmer” is the type of conventional, formulaic movie that’s designed for audiences who don’t appreciate surprises. This redemption story about an ex-con who bonds with a misfit kid follows a tried-and-true blueprint that’s predictable and saccharine sweet, but the film has an honorable message of understanding and acceptance that celebrates unity — even if it does so on the most basic level.
Former high school football star Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) had his whole life ahead of him until a violent mistake turned the All-American boy into a convicted felon. After spending 12 years in prison, Palmer returns home to Louisiana and moves in with his grandmother Vivian (June Squibb). Grandma has taken a liking to the unusual 7-year-old boy named Sam (Ryder Allen) who is living next door with his deadbeat druggie mother, Shelly (Juno Temple). When the boy’s mom runs off for a much longer time than usual, Sam temporarily moves in with his neighbors.
Circumstances change for everyone in the weeks that follow, and Palmer begins to notice that he and the eccentric young boy have more in common than either of them first thought. These two outcasts form a strong bond, each of them making a fresh start with their lives.
The idea of a child who doesn’t conform to gender norms isn’t exactly a challenging topic for most of us in 2021, but the film is so charming that it could break through to the very people who need to be given a gentle nudge and lesson in acceptance. In fact, at first I thought this was a faith-based movie (until the sex scenes and swearing started).
Timberlake and Allen have a sweet chemistry that is essential for a buddy movie like this to work. There are a lot of emotional bits that border on corny, but the film still doesn’t seem too artificial. The narrative falls into place as expected, and the uplifting story about being yourself and doing the best you can to make a difference in a child’s life will tug on many heartstrings.
“Palmer” is hokey, but heartfelt.