Palmer (Drama) (2021)
Director: Fisher Stevens
Writer: Cheryl Guerriero
Stars: Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Ryder Allen, Alisha Wainwright
Recently released after twelve years In prison, Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) returns to his hometown, where he moves in with his grandmother Vivian (June Squibb). Shortly after moving in, Palmer finds out she's been babysitting the neighbor's boy every time his parents suddenly leave town without him.
As his third feature film, Fisher Stevens sets up a slow-paced modern western-esque picture in "Palmer" based around a young kid figuring out his identity.
Featuring none other than Justin Timberlake as the titular main character Palmer, we get to follow a story that is very timely yet, for some reason, feels late as well. Having to be around a child that is not quite like "regular" boys doesn't quite sit right with Palmer, just coming out of jail and certainly having a bit of a checkered past. Hesitantly he has to adjust, for he is solely responsible for young Sam at this point, defending him while not entirely understanding his stance either.
Not necessarily having a broad storyline, what it does works without going over the top since it doesn't need it. The mixed cast are mainly established actors, with Justin Timberlake, Ryder Allen, and Juno Temple featuring most within the movie. The small southern town is a great, traditional backdrop for Timberlake's repressed, moody character to develop, showing his acting chops once again.
"Palmer" serves the purpose of being an easy Sunday night sort of flick despite its themes on sexuality and gender identity. There's not much thinking needed to understand the plot; while the film can be considered a lovely achievement, there are no surprises in store. From quite early on, there's a general idea of where it's going without much deviation. Nevertheless, there are still moments that push more to the gloomy side of the narrative, so even if it never shocks you much, these sullen story beats make it just that bit more special, raising the overall quality.
As mentioned, the story's nature is very suitable at the moment but still feels late. It's a social issue that will be somewhat relevant for a long time still, certainly in southern back-water town such as where "Palmer" occurs. The simple approach to the subject matter and different, more somber angles it takes on drama make it stand out, creating an arduous yet heartfelt journey between Palmer and young Sam. While it certainly might not be remembered for years to come, Palmer stands out as a highlight for me this year.
Small-town American drama, done in a way more should.