A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Abuse has many faces and isn't always obvious from the inside or the outside. It can be a slow, subtle process, yet is no less damaging in its outcome. The issue of consent goes beyond physicality and legal age.
Positive Role Models
The teens in the movie engage in underage drinking, take drugs, have sex without much respect for each other, tease and make fun of others, and run from a diner without paying. Lea goes along with her friends, but shows a more thoughtful, ethical side -- initially refusing to run from the meal in question. She is caring toward her mother and friends to a point, but is also disappointed in their lack of attention, which makes her vulnerable to Tom's interest. Tom is twice her age and manipulative from the start, his kind, fun-loving personality quickly showing cracks and ultimately giving way to coercion and abuse. Lea's mother is sometimes warm and caring, but other times puts her romantic life above her daughter's well-being.
The central character, Lea, lives in a single-parent family unit with her mother, who is caring and warm at times, but also puts her romantic life ahead of her daughter's well-being at others, leaning in to damaging stereotypes. Both boys and girls rate the attractiveness of girls at school in a sexist way. The cast is mostly White, with Lea's friends including characters played by a Black actor (Armani Jackson) and a Filipino actor (Rhied De Castro). Middle-aged and older men are portrayed as predatory.
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Violence & Scariness
An adult man slaps a teenage girl. A 34 year-old man grooms a 17-year-old girl. He is manipulative, possessive, and isolates her from family and friends. Sexual coercion and forced prostitution are shown, including a teenager locked in a hotel room with a much older man to perform oral and penetrative sex.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teens wear bikinis and talk about men looking at their "boobies." Sexual references throughout. Underage teens have sex in a car and a used condom is thrown out of the window. A teen hears their mother having sex with a boyfriend through a wall. Sex and oral sex portrayed between a 34-year-old man and 17-year-old girl, including partial nudity (hands hide breasts).
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Language includes "f---ing," "f--ked," "s--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "ass," "a--holes," "d--k," "balls," and "oh my God" in exclamation.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Underage teens frequently drink alcohol, use a bong, and smoke cigarettes. An adult gives a 17-year-old alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Palm Trees and Power Lines is a well-made but disturbing drama about a 17-year-old girl pulled into a relationship with a 34-year-old man, who ends up being coercive and abusive. The film stars newcomer Lily McInerny as Lea who is groomed by the much older Tom (Jonathan Tucker). Underage sex is portrayed on-screen, including partial nudity and forced prostitution. Teens regularly drink, smoke, and take drugs from a bong. Frequent strong language includes "f---ing," "s--t," and "bitch." There is passing reference to eating disorders in a joke. The movie is a coming-of-age drama that is well acted by its two leads, but its heavy and mature themes make it unsuitable for children and younger teens. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It may have made a splash on the festival circuit but it's no surprise distributors were less confident in taking a chance on a film about the sexual grooming of a teenage girl. The subject matter is undeniably disturbing, and made more so by the realistic way it's portrayed in Jamie Dack's Palm Trees and Power Lines -- incredibly, the director's first feature film. The performances by reliably villainous Tucker (here revealing a piercing attractiveness and gentle humor) alongside newcomer McInerny -- who skillfully mixes innocent vulnerability with a measured caution -- make for a terrifyingly believable portrait of a 17-year-old girl fallen into the hands of a predatory older man. There are red flags throughout, and Lea sees them along with the audience, making what unfolds all the more heartbreaking as the film descends into territory we were dreading (but expecting) from the moment the pair locked eyes across the diner. Once it starts to unfold, we're trapped until the bitter end and left with the helplessness and hopelessness of the film's young central character. It's not an easy watch, but it is a well-crafted and well-acted story handled with sensitivity and care.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
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Books to Help Teens Understand the Importance of Consent
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