In this little sleeper of a movie, Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) is released from prison after serving twelve years for attempted murder in a robbery gone wrong. With nowhere to live but at his beloved grandmother’s (June Squibb of Nebraska), Palmer soon is forced to reexamine his life and, in the process of learning to accept his past, finds ways of expressing his feelings. A bullied young non-binary child, Sam (Ryder Allen), lives with his drug addicted mother, Shelly (Juno Temple), in a trailer on the grandmother’s property. Soon they enter Palmer’s life in a major, life-transforming way.
Palmer is a macho character, the badass who reflexively expressed himself with his fists in his pre-prison past. Yet, Sam–who is bullied repeatedly for his love of princesses, tiaras, and dolls–sits down with Palmer and expresses his joy at being who he is. Both Sam and Palmer are allowed to be painfully vulnerable in these scenes. Full, absolute, acceptance is the overriding theme and heart of r. There’s no denying who you are and no reason to try to change.
Palmer is a poignant, unexpected winner. It is very difficult to develop the character of a little boy who just doesn’t happen to conform to normative male traits. Sam has personal dreams that don’t meet others’ expectations and he wants to be fine with that. The quiet, understated performance by Justin Timberlake as the tight-lipped small-town miscreant– who no one wants to give a second chance
to–is his finest yet. And the angel-faced Ryder Allen is cast so perfectly that this viewer forgot, at times, that he was acting. Check this one out!
Note: Compare Palmer to Peanut Butter Falcon starring Shia LaBoeuf, on a similar theme. Both are good films but I would choose Palmer if you have only time or interest in watching one portrayal of a millennial lost soul and his friendship with a young boy.
Availability: Apple TV+