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I’m a pretty big fan of Justin Timberlake, both as an actor and a singer-songwriter. I was excited to see he had a new film coming out, and extra excited that it actually looked well made. Not only does Timberlake give a great performance but so does everyone else. The exceptional performances and the strong chemistry between the actors is really what makes Palmer worth a watch. While the material isn’t anything all that new, the actors are able to lift it up. I can’t say that I cried but I can say that my heartstrings were definitely pulled.
Timberlake plays the main character, who begins the film as a quiet stern man fresh out of prison who’s just trying to piece together a normal life. As our story progresses we start to see his broken spirit be mended, mostly because of the neighbor boy Sam. What I love so much about Timberlake’s performance is how focused it is, he never wavers and his transition as a character doesn’t come across as forced. I don’t think he gets the praise he deserves for being a great actor, he really does deliver here.
In addition to him, Juno Temple also turns in a skilled performance. Temple’s role is a very tough heartbreaking character, she’s the mother of the neighbor boy who is also a drug addict that disappears with her trashy boyfriend and leaves her son for others to care for. It takes a talented actor to play such a rough ugly role and Temple really knocks it out of the park here. There is one scene in particular between her and her son where she just breaks your heart, that’s a testament to good acting.
And oh my god I absolutely have to talk about the young marvel named Ryder Allen. Allen plays the young boy that Timberlake’s character ends up caring for. I am so impressed with this kid’s acting abilities, not only is he able to be cute and heartwarming when called for but he also handles the heavier dramatic content well too. This boy’s performance just made my heart swell, his character reminds you of the love and purity that we all have when we’re young and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
While it is true that this film’s script covers a lot of fairly familiar territory, BUT one thing that this film incorporates that’s unique is the boy’s very clear femininity. I don’t remember seeing a lot of films where the main child is very clearly… different. I just love how they handled this and what the film chose to do with it. They present the bigotry and the bullying that goes on with young kids who are different but they don’t just show us the ugly stuff. We’re given positive scenes that show us the truth about kids like this and that ultimate truth is that they’re just being themselves. Children don’t know anything else to do except be themselves.
I absolutely loved the scenes between Timberlake and Allen where we see Timberlake’s character struggle with whether to let him act naturally or to educate him about hiding himself in order to make his life easier. It’s a very tough situation because kids can be so damn mean when they see other kids who are different and parents want to protect their children. Those scenes were written beautifully and they emphasized the innocence and purity of Sam (the boy). It was crucially important to show Sam’s confusion as to why it may not be wise to act like himself. He doesn’t understand and that’s the key… if only certain adults were as accepting and loving as kids.
The chemistry between Timberlake and Allen is just striking, you can feel the true love and affection. There is more than enough good here to earn a recommendation from me and Palmer does; the only thing I wish would have been sharper was the beginning. The start of the film is a bit slow and it takes a bit to pull you in, but please stay with it because it gets much better.
This may sound overly sappy but I believe it’s the truth: Palmer reminds us all that differences are beautiful and must be treasured and nurtured, not squeezed out. Palmer also reminds us of the beauty and love that can be found in this much too hateful world. This is not a perfect film, but it is a very well acted heartwarming film that deserves a watch.
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