Sundance Drama Explores Consent – The Hollywood Reporter

Palm trees and power lines, Jamie Dack’s subtle debut about the relationship between a teenage girl and a man twice her age, works in whispers and hints. Glimpses, almost undetectable changes in body language, haunting shifts in tone, and deliberate silences combine to form a terrifying examination. about consent and predation.

The film opens with summer shots, observing 17-year-old Lea (a standout Lily McInerny) through her lazy, wet days before going back to school. She goes hiking humming tunes to herself, sunbathing in the backyard with her friends and watching makeup tutorials online, trying to achieve a “fresh, dewy, not-so-so” look. a lot of”.

Palm trees and power lines

Key point

A delicate and poignant depiction of predation.

Location: Sundance Film Festival (American Drama Competition)
Cast: Lily McInerny, Jonathan Tucker, Gretchen Mol
Manager: Jamie Dack
Writer: Jamie Dack (story by), Audrey Findlay

1 hour 50 minutes

Lea moves around the world unaffected – bored, restless and tireless by friends and family. She has no respect for her mother, Sandra (Gretchen Mol), a nervous real estate agent who is constantly on the lookout for the bland men she dates to identify and satisfy her. Lea doesn’t particularly care for her peers, either, who are past their summer holidays, lounging on the beach and spending their nights smoking and drinking.

In these openings, Dack, along with screenwriter Audrey Findlay and cinematographer Chananun Chotrungroj, conjures up a stinging portrait of estrangement without any condescension or affection. The film’s visual language inverts photographer Petra Collins’s vibrant, ultra-feminine style: There’s nothing dreamy about teenagers’ lives in Palm trees and power lines.

Lea could clearly see the frustration. So it’s no surprise that she finds herself drawn to Tom, a mysterious elderly man played with unsettling excellence by Jonathan Tucker. They first encounter each other at a local diner, where Lea and her friends are about to skip a bill. As Tom was leaving, he winked at the young girl – a gesture that chilled the viewer but pleased her. When Lea and her friend Amber (Quinn Frankel) are caught leaving the restaurant without paying (the boys in the group escaped without difficulty), Tom emerges from the shadows to intervene. card. He confronted the restaurant employee for chasing girls and hitting Lea, then offered to drive her home. (Amber was long gone.)

Fluent in the language of the dangers of strangers, Lea intelligently declines Tom’s offer. But he insists that he will have to keep her company and drive beside her. His persistence brought her down, and Lea eventually lowered her defenses. All of her walls fell apart after Tom guessed her favorite genre of music. The two begin flirting, one undeterred by their incredible age difference: 17-year-old Lea and 34-year-old Tom.

McInerny and Tucker’s strong performance runs a delicately tight circuit, making the duo’s interactions unsettlingly realistic; The actors reflect the endearing awkwardness of any flirting stage without losing sight of the creepy nature of the stage. Tom is very interested in Lea, asking her questions about her interests and aspirations. These visits took the girl by surprise, and her shallow interactions with friends and family had understandably left her emotionally drained.

Dack overcomes the pitfalls of many meditations on similar topics by keeping the story locked in Lea’s perspective. The camera’s gaze is always sympathetic, never exploitative, naive or cruel towards the young woman’s experience. Much of the movie follows the grooming steps, and so while many viewers will recognize the ways Tom manipulates and coerces Lea, the young teen does not. An uneasy scene between Lea and her mother, in which one parrots a phrase Tom has used before, shows just how profound the man’s influence over her is.

Palm trees and power lines moves at a deliberate pace, and as Lea sinks deeper into what she believes to be love for Tom, she grows increasingly disgusted and withdrawn from her former life. She avoids her friends and lies to her mother about her whereabouts. The days she spent with Tom in his motel room, where he claimed to live, began to bleed together. Time loses meaning and the stakes of this relationship become more apparent as the story turns toward its unsettling third act.

Dack’s Idle Story raised questions for me, especially about location, class, race, and vulnerability in conversations and stories about consent and sexual desire. It’s a gift when a film grapples with themes of grief that inspire more substantive questions and considerations. With a clear description of the abuse, Palm trees and power lines won’t be for everyone. But the director’s unflinching approach to a thorny subject, the way she slams her head into assumptions about the grooming and care she treats Lea’s story will live with me in the future. a long time.

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