Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Palmer Movie Poster Image
Mature content in beautiful story of friendship, compassion.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie is all about compassion and empathy, especially toward a child who is gender nonconforming and a Black woman. There's an emotional reward for being open to others. Those who are closed-minded are frowned upon.

Positive Role Models

Eddie Palmer is a formerly incarcerated man who tries with every fiber of his being to do the right thing going forward. He opens his heart to others. The movie offers empathetic portrayals of a child who is gender nonconforming and a Black woman. Main characters are treated equally and with great compassion.


Domestic violence: A man abuses a woman, grabbing and holding her throat during a struggle. He shoves a child several feet across a room. Palmer grabs a man and throws him across the room. Bar fight, with punching and bloody face. Characters argue violently in several scenes. Hateful speech toward a character who is gender nonconforming. A major character dies (corpse shown lying in bed with pale skin). Threats.


Kissing. A woman fondles a man between the legs (nothing explicit shown). They have sex, with thrusting and moaning, several positions. Woman's partly naked bottom shown. Sex-related dialogue. Main character has sex with two different women at different times (the second one is his "true" match). Off-screen sex.


Strong bursts of language, with many uses of "f--k" and "f---ing," plus "bulls--t," "s--t," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "goddamn," "d--k," "f--got," and "piss."


A character orders a "Jim and Coke" in a bar. Can of Coors beer briefly seen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A major character is a drug user. Drug paraphernalia (tin foil, a pipe, etc.) briefly shown. Mentions of "junkie" and "I'm gonna get clean." Heavy, frequent cigarette smoking by most major characters. Main character drinks whiskey and beer in a bar in several scenes. Characters are drunk in some scenes. Other social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Palmer is an emotional, mature drama about a formerly incarcerated man named Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) who becomes friends with a gender-nonconforming child. It's familiar material, but the movie is compassionate and made with empathy, care, and positive representation. Expect to see disturbing scenes of domestic abuse: A man puts his hands on a woman's throat, shoves a young child across a room, and makes threats. There are also scenes of fighting, with mildly bloody wounds, and some hate speech by negatively portrayed characters. Palmer kisses and has sex with two different women; the first is a brief encounter, and the second is much more meaningful. The first scene includes thrusting, moaning, and a woman's partly naked bottom. Language comes in strong bursts, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Characters smoke very frequently, and there are several scenes of drinking in a bar, sometimes to excess. Major characters are also habitual drug users.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byOlegN February 19, 2021

A good but sometimes heavy film with a happy ending

The film talks well about opposite parental qualities.
About the unusual attractions of children and how to understand this to parents.
The film is easy to watc... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old January 30, 2021

Very good movie

We had fun watching it

What's the story?

In PALMER, Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) has just been released from prison on parole. A former high school football star, he made some poor decisions but is now returning to his small Louisiana hometown to start fresh. He shows up at the home of his grandmother, Vivian (June Squibb), who makes him go to church, and he soon lands a job as a school janitor. Living across from Vivian are the troubled Shelly (Juno Temple), her abusive boyfriend, and her sweet child, Sam (Ryder Allen). Shelly suddenly takes off, and Vivian starts looking after Sam. But then Palmer finds himself in charge of Sam, who's gender nonconforming. The two have a rocky start, but they grow closer, and Palmer eventually realizes that he'd like to be Sam's guardian. But what will happen when Shelly returns?

Is it any good?

It's familiar material, but Fisher Stevens' fine drama proceeds with care and compassion, using excellent performances to help create a moving, thoughtful, and inclusive experience. There have been dozens of movies about plucky kids who help grumpy adults become better people -- from Charlie Chaplin's The Kid to Driveways -- but Palmer does the old chestnut proud. Timberlake's Palmer appears to be shielding himself against pain, with his jaw jutted out. But he's also full of regret and gratitude and willing to do whatever it takes to become a better person. His first scene with Squibb effortlessly draws smiles and sets the movie's tone.

Young Allen (8 years old at the time of the movie's release) makes his feature film acting debut with absolute confidence and openness, quickly creating a believable bond with Timberlake. He carries Sam's gender identity with beautiful grace and empathy. The rest of the cast is also impressive; there's not a weak link anywhere. Director Stevens is, of course, a veteran character actor himself (perhaps best known for Short Circuit), as well as an Oscar winner (for producing the documentary The Cove), and he clearly brings his long experience to Palmer. He creates a vivid, logical small-town environment, where things may be a little grayish and stuck, but they're not without hope.

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