Sundance Review: Jamie Dack’s ‘Palm Trees And Power Lines’

Writer-director Jamie Dack has expanded his widely acclaimed 2018 short film palm trees and power lines In a significantly more prickly and disturbing feature of the same title. Verritt style film, shot in the most typical possible locations, making its world premiere in the US Dramatic Competition section sundance, takes a vague look at an environment that is dry both literally and figuratively, in which young people are given little guidance or structure by family or society. Dack does not explicitly editorialize, but clearly articulates the vulnerability of teens left too much to their own devices at an early age.

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Written by Dack and Audrey Findlay, this is a story that could more or less happen anytime, anywhere, centered on teens who have nothing to do but lay around the pool, go to the mall, or get into trouble, most of the time. easily. In particular, it looks like a doomed summer for 17-year-old Lee (Lily McInerney), who lives with her mother, Sandra (Gretchen Moll), in some unknown and completely normal Southern California neighborhood, who has just been Has broken up with her latest boyfriend.

It’s an ineffectual group of non-accounts with which Lee hangs out—the boys find it hilarious to take the girls to a diner and then run away without paying, and it’s almost painful to observe their stupid behavior. Is. Once in a while, the story begins with a scene that is very similar to the opening of the short – a good looking friend drives up to him and chats with him. After some flattery and cajoling on her part – and Lee jokingly says “don’t kill me” – she agrees to accept a lift.

The person in question is Tom (Jonathan Tucker). He speaks sympathetically and supportively, listening to her and comforting, advising that, “You should hang out with people who are very much your level.” A key difference between the short and this feature adaptation is that, originally, the pick-up artist seemed to be probably in his mid-20s, while Tom admits to being 34, which is Lee’s age. Exactly double.

If the writers raise the boy’s age to increase the creep factor, they’ve succeeded, so even though Tucker brings up a likelihood factor, it can’t hide (to the audience, anyway) that this guy. Almost certainly represents trouble. But with nothing else in her life, Lee was open to options.

Since Glen will be coming to see Mom the next day at the dentist, Lee wants to be out of the apartment, and Tom is eager to oblige. Even if you haven’t seen the short film, the feature sets off enough questionable vibes to convince you that the guy has something other than purely respectful intentions where this teenager is concerned.

When they next get together, Tom tells Lee that he runs his own small business and “I live my life any way I want.” The man has an incredible physique, but it begins to gray out prematurely. When he properly asks her if she wants to come back to his room, she agrees. The next morning they both seem happy.

The sexual politics is certainly different, but the preponderance of vehicles, motels and arid landscapes, the concise manner of speaking and mobile cameras are all reminiscent of street movies of the late ’60s and early ’70s, albeit rebellious, exploration. -Without searching. Some mindset. And that’s a huge difference—the characters here can’t even tell what they’re looking for, if anything, so little is known about finding it.

No matter how polite and encouraging Tom may be to Lee, you know he’s no good. The storm clouds gather as they were, but Lee still can’t see them when Tom mentions that a “friend” is coming to him. A waitress also tries to explain to Lee how Tom is always with the other girls, but Lee is so in need of affection and attention that she agrees to accompany him to a beach hotel for a few days. She goes. “I want to be the person taking care of you from now on,” he says, adding that it may sound fine to the naive Lee, but it is a very hidden threat to the audience.

The payoff was feared and Tom eventually admits Lee – forcing her into prostitution – is painful and not easy to watch. It’s a life’s lesson that shouldn’t have been learned this way, and DAC doesn’t put any artificial spin on it to mitigate the bad erosion of it all.

But in his uniquely descriptive way, Dack describes an experience that would have given the victim of this crime a human and experiential awakening that would make him stronger and braver in the future, which is at least one way that no one can explain the ending. Can do. Now that he has told this story twice, in different ways and in different details, he must be ready to move on to a new canvas.