After 12 years in prison, former high school football star Eddie Palmer returns home to put his life back together—and forms an unlikely bond with Sam, an outcast boy from a troubled home. But then, Eddie’s past threatens to ruin his new life and family.
Justin Timberlake plays the titular Palmer, quiet, gruff and just wanting to keep his head down and restart his life on his release from prison. He moves back in with his grandmother and attempts to find a job whilst staying out of trouble. When neighbour Sam, a young boy from a troubled home ends up staying with Palmer and his grandmother, what at first seems a potential clash develops into a heart-warming friendship that has the potential to change both of their lives.
Watching Timberlake grow within the role, as Palmer readjusts his worldview with the help of Sam, is brilliant. He’s able to showcase a more sensitive side to himself than we may be used to seeing on screen, yet also keep the drama grounded when it’s called for in tense scenes scattered within the final act. Ryder Allen plays Sam in an astounding break-through role. Feeling completely natural throughout, he not only steals Palmer’s heart but will likely steal the hearts of many audience members. Tasked with a complex role that looks at family trauma, abandonment issues and gender roles, he never feels anything but completely authentic and is able to match Timberlake’s energy scene for scene with ease. Only his second acting credit, it’s easy to see based on the pair’s chemistry how he landed the role and I look forward to seeing a wider career from him in future.
Whilst the film’s storyline and direction may feel reminiscent of other films and it doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking, it’s a fascinating character study and retrospection on certain aspects of toxic masculinity. Director Fisher Stevens has mostly worked in documentary and this influence can be seen in the naturalistic style to the piece and the characters, who are allowed to just exist on the screen.
Solid writing and direction, with a winning cast and great soundtrack, sell this heartfelt story. It may not blow people away, but if you connect with the core cast, you’ll feel your heart in your throat as you watch along.
Palmer is available globally on AppleTV+ on the 29th January 2021.