Mark Reviews Movies

Trust (2011)

TRUST (2011)

3 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: David Schwimmer

Cast: Liana Liberato, Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Jason Clarke, Viola Davis

MPAA Rating: R (for disturbing material involving the rape of a teen, language, sexual content and some violence)

Running Time: 1:44

Release Date: 4/1/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 31, 2011

The makings of an afterschool special run high in the premise of Trust. It tells the story of a teenage girl, lured into meeting a man 20 years her senior through her anonymous interactions with him on the Internet. The film avoids simple, manipulative cautionary tactics, though, and Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger's script (based on a play by Bellin and director David Schwimmer) is as much about the reaction to the crime as it is about the circumstances that lead to it.

Trust pulls few punches, whether in detailing the particular methods of a sexual predator to instill a false sense of trust within his potential victim, the unfortunate and at times disgusting propensity for certain people in society to blame the victim for such a crime, or the feelings of rage that can arise in the face of seemingly hopeless injustice. The screenplay illuminates the occasionally flawed actions and thinking of its characters while never hunting for blame where it does not exist, and Schwimmer's handling of the multifaceted emotional and psychological terrain on display here is delicate and utterly compassionate.

Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) has just turned 14. Her normal routine consists of going to school, preparing for tryouts for the volleyball team, and chatting online with her friends and strangers who can advise her on good training tips. The conversations appear on screen as subtitles, complete with shorthanded lingo and the blocking of one obviously perverted person who interrupts the course of the discussion.

Her father is Will (Clive Owen), an advertising man whose work comprises of designing media that show off the de-clothed state of young-looking models while selling the clothes they aren't wearing. He is often distracted by work but still talks with her, checks in on her (In asking what a certain chat abbreviation stands for, Annie answers: "Parent watching over my shoulder"), and even buys her a new laptop to go along with a new dress he thinks might be a bit too revealing.  Her mother Lynn (Catherine Keener), on the other hand, is ever around and always ready for a face-to-face talk about whatever might be on her daughter's mind, growing up as a young woman and all the changes that come along with it.

They are for all intents and purposes—and this is vital—good parents. They are as attentive as they can be to their children, though Annie, the middle child, might be temporarily in the background with her older brother Peter (Spencer Curnutt) on his way to college. They even know about her new friend Charlie from California, who also plays volleyball and is a couple years her senior. She grows to like her new, older friend, especially when they exchange pictures. Neither Will nor Lynn think there's anything wrong with her long-distance crush.

Charlie's story begins to change. One day he's in high school, and the next he's in college. Annie doesn't appreciate the lie but finds something understandable and maybe a bit romantic in how he says he only did it so she wouldn't stop talking to him. Then he says he's actually graduated from college, and by this time, devastated as she is, he has already lied his way into being an important part of life—the person she can always count on to talk about anything and everything. When they meet, he (Chris Henry Coffey) is in his thirties and coerces her to his hotel room by convincing her it's her own fault if she isn't comfortable with the situation; she just isn't "mature" enough to understand how "love" works.

Liberato is wholly convincing and heartbreaking as Annie, particularly as the character falls into the man's twisted logic. Their relationship is real, and when her parents find out, they, especially her father, are only trying to get in the way.

After the rape, the film deals partly with devastating statistics (read off by the federal agent (Jason Clarke) brought in on the case) that paint an almost impossible picture of justice being served, but again, Bellin and Festinger primarily use it as a springboard for exploring how the characters react in the face of a bleak, painful future ahead of them in which life must somehow move forward without the promise of closure.

The second half of the film cuts between Annie attending sessions with a social worker (Viola Davis), as she gradually comes to realize what happened was not an act of love but one of violence (When it comes, after being confronted with pictures of the man's other victims, the realization is not immediately one of anger with him but of disappointment with herself—that she is somehow not "special" because she was not the only one), and Will torn between his own emotions of hatred toward the man who hurt his little girl and disbelief that his daughter was involved in the first place. As he plays the scene in the hotel room in his head, Will's vision of his daughter switches between one of her crying out for him to help and a warped one of her as a temptress.

The insinuation, solidified by Will's boss (Noah Emmerich) who is relieved that Annie was not "attacked," is that of a culture so eager to find a cause for a horrifying act such as this (or holds women in such low regard) that some are willing to purposefully or unintentionally condemn the victim.  It's a sad trend we see replay itself over and over again, and one that here, after the cruelty of some of her classmates, sends Annie over the edge.

While some narrative elements may be too cleanly straightforward (Will's involvement with a watchdog group helps him to act out his fantasies of vigilantism), Trust is still an emotionally overwhelming film. It is held tightly together by potent performances (particularly, in addition to Liberato, Owen, whose outpouring of chaotic vulnerability is especially wrenching) and Bellin, Festinger, and Schwimmer's perceptive and careful insight.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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