Palmer Ending, Explained

Perhaps because of his ingrained popstar personality, Justin Timberlake brings a certain amount of charisma to the somber and reserved eponymous character he portrays in director Fisher Stevens’ (‘Stand Up Guys’) drama film ‘Palmer.’ It is not necessarily a bad thing. His performance adds an extra layer of complexity to the film that would have been otherwise absent.

Eddie Palmer returns home after spending several years in prison and forms an unlikely connection with the boy next door. In the film, Palmer learns to overcome his personal prejudices while simultaneously dealing with those aimed at him. Here is everything you need to know about ‘Palmer’s ending. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Palmer Plot Synopsis

The film begins as Palmer gets paroled and makes his way back to his hometown. Life hasn’t been kind to him. He used to be a star quarterback at his high school and even earned a football scholarship to a college. But during one of the games, he got so severely injured that it ended his football career, along with his time at the college. After returning home that time, he could not deal with the suddenness and unfamiliarity of being a failure and started doing drugs. After almost beating the affluent father of a youth he knew, he ended up in jail.

Prison has changed Palmer thoroughly. The boiling anger he used to feel immediately after returning from college is gone now. It has since been replaced with the desperation of a man seeking a second chance in life. After returning from prison, he moves in with his grandmother Vivian (June Squibb) and gets a job as a local school janitor.

Sam (Ryder Allen) hails from a troubled family. In the absence of his father, his mother, Shelly (Juno Temple), has brought him up on her own. However, she often vanishes for weeks, leaving her son in Vivian’s care. But one day, Palmer wakes up to find that his grandmother has passed away in her sleep. With his mother still gone, all the responsibilities of the young boy fall on Palmer’s shoulders. He briefly considers handing Sam over to Child Services but discards the plan upon realizing that the boy will not survive in the system.

The story is set in the Deep South, where “acceptable” behavior is rigidly defined according to gender. And yet, Sam has grown up playing with dolls, having playdates with friends, and putting clips in his hair. When Palmer tells him that boys don’t play with dolls, Sam simply replies that he is a boy, and he does. This infectious optimism quickly endears him to Palmer, who has been struggling with his self-worth for a long time. As for Sam, their growing relationship brings to his life two things that he has never encountered before: stability and a father figure. The strong bond they form doesn’t diminish even after Shelly’s return.

Palmer Ending: Why Does Shelly Allow Palmer to be Sam’s Guardian?

After missing for weeks, Shelly shows up at Palmer’s doorsteps, looking like a ghost of her former self. But Palmer has no choice but to let Sam go with her because she is his mother at the end of the day. Palmer later learns that Sam and Shelly are moving in with Shelly’s new boyfriend, Jerry (Dean Winters). But that plan gets scrapped when Child Services take Sam away.

Palmer is honest enough to acknowledge that the only difference between him and Shelly is that he is luckier this time around. He offers her money in exchange for allowing him to be Sam’s legal guardian. Initially, Shelly is furious at the very idea and throws Palmer out of her trailer. She later convinces the judge presiding over Sam’s case to release him in her care. At first, she has every intention to make this moment a turning point in her life and become the mother that Sam needs. But she inevitably relapses to her self-destructive ways.

During a drug-induced, volatile fight between Jerry and Shelly, the former throws Sam to the floor, prompting Palmer to intervene. Palmer earlier tried to become Sam’s legal guardian but failed. Realizing that Sam’s physical and psychological health might endure serious harm if he continues to live with his mother, he takes Sam and tries to run away but, Maggie (Alisha Wainwright), a teacher at the school, convinces him to come back and surrender.

When Shelly sees the sheer outpour of grief from her son as Palmer is taken away by the police, she finally comes to understand the true extent of the bond that Sam shares with the older man. She ensures that Palmer is released from police custody before letting him know of her decision. It’s inarguably the hardest choice she has made in her life. She first accepts her own shortcoming and then admits that someone else is better suited to raise her child.

Will Palmer Be a Good Father?

For Palmer, his relationship with Sam epitomizes the second chance in life he has been given. “I haven’t felt like I was good at anything for a long time, until Sam,” he tells the judge during the hearing. In the closing scenes, he and Maggie start dating again. His grandmother’s house has been sold, which means that he and Sam are living somewhere else. The two discover that the TV show that Sam loves has sent him a mail, making him a member of Penelope’s Flying Princess Club. Palmer had certain reservations about how Sam behaved and dressed, but he quickly overcame them. He will be an excellent father who wholeheartedly accepts who his son is.

Read More: Is Palmer a True Story?