Palm Trees and Power Lines (2022) is a film that narrates the story of Lea, a teenager who feels like a misfit. The movie is mellow, but the events unfolding in it are jarring. It’s a slow-burn narrative, and as a viewer, you need to have a lot of patience to sit through two hours to find out what happens to Lea. The movie starts just like any other Young Adult movie, where a 17-year-old girl is bored during the summer holidays.
However, the coming-of-age drama slowly transitions into a series of disconcerting sexual grooming of a teenager by a handsome predator. Writer/director Jamie Dack succeeds in portraying a complex theme like exploitation and swindling in such a subtle way. She makes it clear through his characters that this movie isn’t supposed to be romanticized. It’s a lesson to be learned from.
Palm Trees and Power Lines (2022) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
Lea is just another girl living with her mother in the suburbs of Southern California. She is bored out of her mind. Her mother suggests getting a job, but she doesn’t heed her advice. She keeps hanging out with her friends aimlessly. All they do is drink, smoke, and talk about sex. Her mother is divorced and has many boyfriends whom she brings home.
Lea’s father abandoned them and has another family. This has caused her to develop a severe fear of abandonment. She feels disconnected from her friends. She is in a friends-with-benefits kind of situation with one of her friends, but she isn’t emotionally attached to him or any of her friends.
How does Lea meet Tom?
Lea and her friends are eating at a diner one night. Her guy friends decide to run away without paying the bill. Lea and her friend, Amber, are the last ones to run, but a hotel staff catches up to her and holds her hand. He demands she gets back inside and pays the bill. A stranger named Tom rescues her and threatens the staff to leave her alone.
She is all alone now as her friends ditch her. Tom offers to drop her home. They exchange phone numbers, and Lea is completely smitten with him. It’s evident that there is a major age gap between the two. Tom is twice her age, and we get the feeling that it’s clearly not going to end well. The more she gets to know him, the more charming he appears to Lea.
Does Lea fall in love with Tom?
Lea and Tom meet a couple of times. In one of the meetings, Lea asks if they could go to his place. Tom takes her to a motel. Tom clears her apprehension and says that his lease is up and this is just a temporary stay till he finds a place to live. They spend the night together, and Lea falls head over heels in love with an older man.
Tom is very smooth in his ways. He cleverly manages to isolate Lea from her friends. Moreover, he uses his words to manipulate her methodically. Of course, he tells her that he hasn’t met anyone like her before. Lea feels like she is finally being understood. She feels emotionally safe and connected with Tom. He showers her with attention and words of affirmation. He knows what she wants and gives her exactly that to trap her.
Do Lea’s friends know about Tom?
Amber is the only one who knows about Tom, but she has no idea that her best friend has fallen in love with him. She thinks it’s just a physical relationship. She makes Amber pinky swear that she won’t tell anyone about this. Amber breaks her promise and tells the rest of the group.
Her friends mock her and make fun of her for being with an older man. They think he is with her just to use her sexually. This deeply hurts Lea, and she runs to meet Tom. She cries to him. At this point, he is the only one she turns to when she is in distress.
Palm Trees and Power Lines (2022) Ending, Explained:
What does Tom do to Lea?
Lea wants to go to New York and start a new life with him. She wants to run away. He shows her that he is adventurous and takes her on road trips. On one of the trips, he tells Lea that he wants to be her “protector.” That he wants to be the one to take care of her from now on, and he wants it to be just the two of them. It’s a clear red flag that he is trying to control her.
Lea is oblivious to this because she is in love. That night, he cleans up the room and tells Lea that he is expecting a visitor. He sits her down and asks her to spend the night with the visitor because that’s how they will get the money to run away and start their new life.
Does Lea bend to Tom’s will?
Lea is shocked at first. She is numb and doesn’t know how to react to this. She is in the room waiting for the visitor to arrive. The visitor is an old man, probably in his late 50s. She gives in and lets the old man take advantage of her. By the time he is done, she is crying. She is traumatized.
Lea calls her best friend, Amber, and asks if she will pick her up. She goes back home and isn’t able to recover from this trauma. Later, she locks herself in her room. Lea simply listens to music most of the time and barely goes out. Eventually, she stops meeting her friends as well.
Is Lea gaslighted?
Lea is a lovelorn teenager who wants to experience that fairy tale kind of love. Tom sensed Lea’s despair and desperation from the get-go. Besides, Tom knew she felt trapped and that nobody really understood her. Furthermore, he sensed her body image issues because she always insisted on turning the lights off whenever they had sex. Naturally, the predatory guy knew how to exploit her. He even tries to sound more relatable by telling her his father’s story, i.e., his father also abandoned him.
Tom has completely manipulated her and made her think that he is the only one who will be there for her. At the end of the movie, she reaches the motel he was staying at. She begs Tom’s friend that she wants to see and talk to him. She calls her from her phone and hands it over to Lea. The climax makes it clear that Lea is further going to be abused by him. Obviously, she has become his prey. Lea is crouching on the floor and says she misses him.
The movie is dark and will leave you devastated. It’s evident from the first scene that Tom is a walking red flag. The power dynamics between them considerably change when Lea says she wants to run away with him. But you still want good things to happen to Lea, but she is getting sucked into Tom’s labyrinth of emotional and sexual manipulation. Their toxic relationship has damaged Lea so much that she thinks Tom is the right one for her.