Debut Feature Filmmaker Jamie Dack delivers powerful, coming-of-age story ‘Palm Trees and Power Lines.’

Lily McInerny and Jonathan Tucker lift a coming-of-age story into unforgettable drama in ‘Palm Trees and Power Lines.’

Lily McInerny (left) and Jonathan Tucker lift a coming-of-age story into unforgettable drama in ‘Palm Trees and Power Lines.’ Photo by Sundanceorg.

“I miss you.” It’s a favorite movie line we hear in countless films, from comedies to musicals and adventures to dramas. I’ve never experienced that movie quote how first-time feature filmmaker Jamie Dack uses it in her heartfelt coming-of-age drama Palm Trees and Power Lines. It’s unforgettably powerful, like the slow-burn drama surrounding the dialogue.

Seventeen-year-old Lea (newcomer Lily McInerny) spends her aimless days chasing sunrays and immature boys from her school. Her boring life receives a jolt when an older man named Tom (Jonathan Tucker) helps her pay a restaurant bill after her friends ditch her. Tom is twice her age and twice as caring as the sex-obsessed boys in her life. Tom may have secrets, but Lea knows he cares about her.

Dack makes an exceptional debut with Palm Trees and Power Lines, premiering in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance Film Festival 2020. Adapting her 2018 short film with a new cast and crew, Dack and editor Christopher Radcliff maintain a documentary-like, conversational pace in perfect sync with the characters and their stories. A filmmaker only has one shot at a first feature, and Dack hits the mark.

Cinematographer Chananun Chotrungroj makes beautiful use of the small, visual details in Palm Trees and Power Lines. The modest home Lea shares with her single mom (Gretchen Mol) and their hazy, sun-washed surroundings become essential characters. Lea wears a mismatched swimsuit. She treats herself to a pink frosted donut with her girlfriend. It’s clear why Lea wants more in life.

Dack matches her film craft with the impressive direction of her leads, Lily McInerny and Jonathan Tucker. True to the film’s slow-burn storytelling, McInerny and Tucker steadily shift from car seat foreplay to sinister power dynamics. There’s not a false moment between McInerny and Tucker. Each new scene leading to the film’s ambiguous, quiet finale is more believable and heartbreaking than the last one.

Dack exceeds the cinematic benchmarks of an emerging filmmaker. She tells a timely, older man/younger girl relationship drama distant from the elegance of an art classic like Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee and the shocking French drama Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl (A Ma Soeur!).

In Palm Trees and Power Lines, the dangers a young woman experiences with an older man land quietly, subtly. It makes the horror more impactful.

DirectorJamie Dack

Cast: Lily McInerny, Jonathan Tucker, and Gretch Mol.

Production Company: Neon Heart and Fiesta Island Films.

Distributor: Focus Features 

Unrated

Release Date: TBD

Behind the Curtain: Filmmaker Jamie Dack sources her 2018 short film Palm Trees and Power Lines for her debut feature.

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