Out of prison and out on bail, former high school football Eddie Palmer (as played by Justin Timberlake) returns to his grandmother Vivian. However, parked outside in her backyard is a whole other trailer-load of trouble. Fighting and screaming, wayward mother Shelly as played by Juno Temple, disappears leaving her flamboyant son Sam with Vivian. By providing the shelter that both Palmer and Sam needs, it seems as though life might actually correct itself. That is until Vivian suddenly dies. Left with a 7-year-old minor to care for and a clean sheet that he desperately needs to keep that way, Palmer has a difficult choice to make – and it could see them both sent away for good…

in this cast’s hands, the trite definitely becomes dynamite.

Apple TV+ has long struggled for decent long-form features since its debut but it’s fair to say that director Fisher Stevens‘s conflicted drama Palmer is a definite entry in the positive column. In harbouring shades of an unshaven Vincent Cassel, singer Justin Timberlake certainly more than impresses in this low-rent drama about acceptance and redemption. Clearly echoing sentiments from our much-loved Adopt A Highway, again where an ex-con discovers a child in need of supervision, a decision hangs over them with heavy consequences. Similarly in yet another recent release that frames a younger child cast with an older adult, the movie’s overall credibility actually rests more heavily on Ryder Allen as Sam than it does on Justin Timberlake.

Fortunately though, Ryder Allen smashes it. 

In his debut feature, Allen’s Sam is a sweet kid who is sadly at the butt of every sentence at his school. Outwardly effeminate and far more intersted in dressing-up and cartoon princesses, he’s a lardy target for cruel remarks and much handed-down hurt. And yet in saying that, Sam is not a victim and Ryder doesn’t play him like that. Instead by always seeing a positive and being able to move beyond the hurt that’s fielded to him, this is a performance that will melt its way through your heart, as it does Palmer’s too.

So, in terms of a fresh story that shows how a vulnerable child can help mend a broken adult, Palmer doesn’t necessarily bring anything specifically new to a well-established storyline. However, where it does succeed and will transcend your expectations is just how committed its cast is. Alisha Wainwright is excellent as kindly school teacher Maggie who tries her best to shield Sam, as is forthright June Squibb as an all-too-soon departed Vivian from the movie’s opening scenes. However, what will no doubtlessly draw you in is Justin Timberlake’s ex-con who is navigating the remaining wreckage of his life. Similar to how Harry Connick Jnr proved that there was much more to him than just vocal cords, Justin Timberlake also has that extra act as a thespian if the script is good enough. However, the later section of the movie solely belongs to Ryder Allen as he takes over. Yes, you might feel that the buttons being pressed are a bit too obvious for the times, however in this cast’s hands, the trite definitely becomes dynamite and AppleTV+ can say that they have a bonafide feature on their hands. 

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