Fresh out of prison after serving only 12 years of his sentence, Palmer (Justin Timberlake) rolls up at his grandma’s house with nowhere else to go. Grandma Vivian (June Squibb) is the one who raised him after his mom split and his dad died and she’s there for him again when he needs her.
He’s not the only one she pinch-hits for. Shelly (Juno Temple) next door is often… indisposed. By drugs and an abusive boyfriend. Which is already a pity, but Shelly’s also got a young son named Sam, who comes to stay with Vivian whenever his mother disappears, which is often. Life at Vivian’s is the only real stability Sam (Ryder Allen) has ever known. He eats regularly and sleeps in a real bed and gets to class on time. And now Palmer is a bonus father figure, something Sam has been craving.
Palmer is a convicted felon who’s lucky to find work as a janitor and Sam is a little boy who likes to play princesses. You wouldn’t have guessed that they were each exactly what the other needed but they do form a friendship, one that empowers Sam and gives Palmer’s life meaning.
Is Palmer cute and kind of sentimental? Yes it is. You’ll feel you’ve seen this kind of thing before because you have. Such is the redemption drama. And yet admittedly the performances are compelling, and the kid is charming as hell. Justin Timberlake shows some surprising range leading a strong ensemble cast. Palmer sees himself in this young abandoned boy, and his charity toward him is an opportunity to absolve some of his past sins. Together they are building a life, and yes it’s trite but it’s also very watchable.