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‘Palm Trees and Power Lines’ Star Jonathan Tucker Goes Dark As a Creepy Older Guy

At the IndieWire Studio presented by Adobe, Jamie Dack talks about capturing an unsettling power imbalance between a teenage girl and an older man.

The increasing support for women directors is not simply hollow box-ticking, it’s about diversifying the kinds of stories that get told onscreen. Recent films like Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” or Kitty Green’s “The Assistant,” which mine the interior lives of young women for austere but gripping dramas, have only begun to tap the well of previously unexplored narratives about women and girls. A new compelling entry into the growing canon, “Palm Trees and Power Lines,” explores the power imbalance between a teenage girl and an older man and the subtle manipulation behind the scenes. The film is the feature directorial debut of photographer turned filmmaker Jamie Dack, who probed her own history for the story.

“As I was getting older, I started looking back at some of the relationships I had as a teenager through a different lens,” Dack told IndieWire as part of the IndieWire Studio presented by Adobe at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. “What I thought were relationships that I was completely in control of or consciously choosing to be a part of, as an adult I was like, ‘Hm, I’m not sure that that’s exactly what was happening.’ So I decided to write this script where Lea is kind of a proxy for my younger self as I explored what had happened to me and also what could have happened.”

The film features an exciting discovery in newcomer Lily McInerny, who embodies 17-year-old Lea with an optimistic yearning and wide-eyed openness. Though her acting inexperience doesn’t show at all in her performance, it bolsters the power dynamic between McInerny and her co-star, the more seasoned Jonathan Tucker (“Westworld,” “Justified”). Tucker is unnervingly charming and shifty as Tom, whose seemingly innocent motivations slowly give way to something more sinister.

“I didn’t quite appreciate how challenging some of the work was going to be on the day, nor how challenging it would be to watch it,” said Tucker. “But [Jamie Dack] always was able to find ways to calibrate the…relationship between Tom and Lea, and she was incredibly sensitive to that. …It’s that sort of confidence that you really only see in the very best directors that are working today. …It’s personally thrilling to have been there at the jump, because I think these two people are gonna go off to do extraordinary things.”

Presenting sponsor Adobe — with a mission to enable creativity for all — is committed to supporting, elevating and amplifying underrepresented creators, so the world can see, learn and benefit from diverse perspectives. Learn more at Adobe.com Diverse Voices. The upcoming 2022 festival marks the fifth consecutive year IndieWire and Adobe have joined forces for the IndieWire Studio at Sundance.

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