Tearing Down Gender Stereotypes in Family Drama ‘Palmer’

Allison DeGrushe
Allison DeGrushe
March 27, 2021

Apple TV+’s latest feature film Palmerdirected by Fisher Stevens and written by Cheryl Guerriero, a native of my hometown, takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster set in a small town in Louisiana.

When ex-convict Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) is released early from his prison sentence, he returns home to live with his beloved grandmother Vivian (June Squibb). While on the path to rebuilding himself, he meets Sam (Ryder Allen), an adorable boy from a dysfunctional home. After a tragic turn of events, Palmer soon becomes the primary caregiver to Sam, and the two develop a genuine father-son bond. Though they face several obstacles from both the public and Sam’s drug-addicted mother, Shelly (Juno Temple), nothing can tear them apart.

In the beginning, Palmer is cold and distant towards Sam; he wants nothing to do with him. The last thing he wants to do is be around an eccentric little boy. As the movie progresses, Sam coaxes Palmer out of his detached nature. Palmer cares for the boy and his well-being, and the two connect through similar experiences — both have absent mothers and are considered outsiders in their hometown.

Palmer is Ryder Allen’s introduction to Hollywood, and all I have to say is that he stole the show. His performance was beautiful, heartbreaking, brilliant, and so much more. While I watched the film, I wanted to climb through the screen and give Sam all the love and comfort he deserves.

When you meet Sam, you will immediately fall in love with him. His carefree and precocious lifestyle is fascinating to watch. Through his character, gender stereotypes are broken down. Sam loves to play with dolls, dress up as a princess, and have tea parties with his friend Emily (Molly Sue Harrison). Sam’s behavior is pointed out numerous times throughout the movie; however, he is passionate about his interests and would never change who he is to follow societal standards.

I know Justin Timberlake is a triple threat; yet, I have never seen him act until now. He truly impressed me with his performance, and I think he did an incredible job. He immersed himself in the lead role, standing at the center of this heartbreaking, realistic story. The southern accent was definitely something to get used to, but I thought it was an adequate interpretation.

Timberlake does not receive enough credit for his acting abilities. He is a great actor, and he has the range and maturity to be a go-to leading man in Hollywood.

As a whole, the story is deeply emotional; I was in tears throughout the entire movie. I fell in love with the characters and the dynamics of several relationships, especially the bond between Palmer and Sam, and the budding romance between Palmer and Maggie (Alisha Wainwright).

I found that Palmer is great for diversity in that some of the cast and crew are members of underrepresented groups. For example, Sam’s teacher Miss Maggie is a Black woman of Jamaican and Haitian descent. Also, the film features a female screenwriter, which is most definitely a marginalized group in Hollywood. Moreover, the character of Sam defies society and challenges toxic gender norms by blurring the lines between male and female.

Palmer is now available to stream exclusively on Apple TV+. It is rated R for language, some sexual content/nudity and brief violence. Check out the trailer here!