Connect with us

Apple TV

‘Palmer’ review: Dir. Fisher Stevens (2021)

Arriving on Apple TV+ from Friday 29th January.

Justin Timberlake leads the cast of this engrossing, though sometimes by-the-numbers drama about an ex-con who forms a bond with an eight-year-old boy from a troubled home in contemporary small-town America.

If the premise sounds familiar, well, a lot of it is. Palmer follows a done-before formula, but also one that has proven to have worked time and time again. In fact, the film shares a lot of tone with another high-profile drama, the Mark Wahlberg-led Joe Bell – a much darker film, and a true story which premiered at the late 2020 festivals, and while this one’s predictability can be sometimes tedious and frustrating, you can’t help but be sucked into proceedings from the off.

To elaborate on the story, Timberlake is the ‘Palmer’ of the title, Eddie Palmer, a former high school quarterback who has just been released from prison back to his hometown in Louisiana. He returns to the home of his grandmother, Vivian (June Squibb), who puts him up on the condition that he looks for a job – a condition of his parole anyway – and attends church every Sunday with her.

After a drunken first night back in the local saloon, Palmer reunites with his old friends, a bunch of lads who have seemingly been frozen in time, working the same jobs and swigging from bottles of bourbon in the same bar night after night. There’s also Juno Temple’s Shelly, a single mother who Palmer shacks up with for a fleeting one night stand. Shelly’s son is the sweet mannered Sam (Ryder Allan), an eight-year-old who likes to play with dolls and watch his favourite princess show on TV. When his mother jumps town, which seems to be a regular occurrence, he usually ends up staying with Vivian at her home next to Shelly’s trailer, usually for weeks on end.

Such an event occurs shortly into the film and, when Vivian suddenly passes away, Sam is left under the care of Palmer. Over the course of the story, Palmer focusses on rebuilding his life by doing the right things, but a spanner is thrown into the works with the arrival of Sam as a strong bond slowly begins to form between the two.

As I said, we’ve seen all of this before, but Stevens, also an accomplished actor and documentarian knows which emotional strings to pull despite the narrative hitting, and indeed nailing all the beats you will expect it to. Timberlake is solid in the lead, and turns in an empathetic performance, while Temple, as you may expect, also delivers as the troubled mother.

The big stand out is Ryder Allan as Sam, an amazing performance from a young actor in his debut, break-out role. He puts in a hugely likable performance as the youngster who you just hope everything will work out for by the time those end credits roll. The key factor that both Stevens in his staging, Cheryl Guerriero in her scripting, and the main actors in their respective turns all pull things off, make this a familiar journey that you’re more than willing to go on. One of the better and more rewarding Apple Originals we’ve seen feature-wise so far.

Palmer is released on Apple TV+ on 29th January.


Paul Heath



Up there as one of the better Apple TV original movies we’ve seen on the streamer so far. A largely by the numbers journey but one most will be pulled in by.



Latest Posts


More in Apple TV