Palm Trees and Power Lines: the slow burn movie’s ending, explained

Palm Trees and Power Lines

Palm Trees and Power Lines revolves around the story of Lea, a 17 year-old girl whose life changes when she meets a handsome stranger. Let’s see what happens.

Spoilers Ahead!

The teenage summer break

Lea and her friend Amber are passing their summer soaking in the sun waiting for senior year to begin. At home, she’s at odds with her mother, whom she believes gets needy and obsessed with her only when she doesn’t have a constant date.

It’s evident that Lea’s family life isn’t helping her feel comfortable and safe. And her friend group? She sleeps with a guy but no relationship and does teenage stuff.

A chance encounter in a diner

One night while eating at the diner, she locks eyes with a handsome man who even winks at her. Later, the group decide to leave without paying- Lea being against that. Still, she follows behind them and is caught by the kitchen staff who slaps her.

That’s when the stranger comes and rescues her. He follows her home and despite her initial reaction to not get in his car, she relents. He’s Tom, 34, and a builder. There’s an eeriness of something off but it’s out of reach.

Seeking solace and comfort

As common in teenage, Lea feels that no one understands her. Hence why she calls and meets Tom. He validates her feelings and perspectives. When she confesses that her mom wants her to decide what she wants to do, Tom tells her that she need not have everything figured out and that she need not even go to college- clearly becoming the opposite of her mother.

He even shares how his father too wasn’t there when he grew up and how he understands her. Their meetings continue. She grows vulnerable and emotionally dependent around him.

Lea and Tom’s “relationship”

There’s nothing wrong with an age-gap relationship. But things are wrong when Tom, knowing Lea is underage, asks permission to kiss her. Her friend Amber knows a little about someone she’s seeing but not whom.

Lea even asks to go to his place. Tom agrees (another red flag) and takes her to a motel. He says he’s been here since his lease was up.At lunch one day, a waitress approaches Lea with concern when Tom goes out. She asks her if Lea needs help because she’s seen that guy with many girls here. Lea is shaken but Tom pacifies her.

One night when her friend group asks and talks about Tom, cautioning her, Lea runs to him and cries. Tom says that they don’t matter and only him and her do. This subtle alienation and isolation is happening for every aspect of Lea’s life. He tells her that he wants to take care of her and protect her. She is in love with him.

Is Tom really a “Good Guy”?

Tom takes Lea on a short trip. In the hotel at night, he tells Lea that she needs to do something for them. His friend is coming over and she needs to have sex with him because they’ll need money when they go away. Lea refuses but somehow he convinces her to do it.

She cries when a much older guy comes and uses her. Tom takes her for dinner after that from where she escapes and calls Amber to pick her up, telling her they had a fight. Over the next few days, Lea is disturbed but starts spending time with her friends and even mother.

She hasn’t heard from Tom and when she tries calling him, the number is disconnected.

The ending and Lea’s decision

In the end, she waits for Tom at his motel but in vain. She goes up to his friend’s room and asks to talk to him. The friend calls him and after a discussion gives Lea the phone. Lea sits and in the last shocking scene, tells Tom that she misses him.

All the cues that Tom is a sexual groomer are evident right from the beginning. His talk, his mannerism, charm etc. contributed to the eeriness of the movie. With Lea’s last dialogue, it’s sure that she’s in his trap and she’ll continue to be exploited by him.

Speaking to IndieWire about the ending, director Jamie Deck says, “What I feel about the ending is just that it’s real. People are like, ‘Why would she do that?,’ and I am like, ‘Because so many people do that, because I have stayed in a relationship longer than I wish I would have.’”