8 July 2011

Movie Review: Trust


2011, 104mins, 15
Director: David Schwimmer
Writer (s): Andy Bellin, Robert Festinger
Cast includes: Liana Liberato, Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis, Noah Emmerich
UK Release Date: 8th July 2011

David Schwimmer’s 2007 directorial debut “Run Fatboy Run” was a bust, a lethargic and slovenly comedy which inexplicably wasted Simon Pegg and understandably stalled the ex-“Friends” star’s filmmaking opportunities for a few years. For his return from director jail Schwimmer has opted to do away with any potential funny business, turning to the controversial subject matter of internet predators for inspiration. The resulting picture is “Trust”, a harrowing and superbly acted drama. Schwimmer handles the material well, leaving much of the heavy lifting to his talented cast, with performers both new and old delivering sterling work.

Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) is an ordinary 14-year old girl. She comes from a loving family, is a passionate athlete and enjoys using internet chat sites to connect with likeminded youngsters across the globe. Chief amongst Annie’s cyber chums is Charlie, a 16-year old with similar sporting interests. As Annie and Charlie continue to communicate, it transpires that Charlie might be considerably older; something confirmed when a meeting is arranged at Annie’s local mall. Seduced by Charlie’s maturity, Annie succumbs to his sexual advances, leaving her confused and scarred. When the meet-up is brought to the attention of Annie’s parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener) all hell breaks loose, her father in particular exhibiting a thinly veiled desperation for vengeance. With the FBI struggling to track the sex offender down, Annie finds her life changing in some very unpleasant ways, confiding her troubles only to therapist Gail (Viola Davis).

“Trust” is a troubling watch, but for all the right reasons. The film tackles its themes with upmost seriousness and respect, painting a grim yet necessary picture of pedophilia and teenage angst. “Trust” is fundamentally about the collapse of a once sound familial unit, exploring the inner turmoil of particular individuals to fuel the heartbreaking drama. The fact Schwimmer and his writers have elected to explore the harsh reality of child molestation in the process only adds to the movie’s relentlessly depressing tone. “Trust” is a very involving motion picture, but it doesn’t go down easy.

Newcomer Liana Liberato is terrific here; it’s like watching a seasoned adult actor portray a teenager. Detailing with tremendous subtly Annie’s sorrow, Liberato never overacts or falls victim to potential melodrama, instead measuring her reactions with a true understanding of the film’s thesis. During the opening quarter the actress is a ball of jubilant energy, but as things get worse she transforms organically into a sullen, ghostly presence. Schwimmer juxtaposes the two sides of Annie marvelously, using Liberato’s intense turn to inform the picture’s central arc. As the parents spinning through this godforsaken scenario both Keener and Owen are well cast, the latter totally convincing as a broken man on the brink of obsession. A monologue he delivers during the movie’s low-key climax is distressingly honest, bringing “Trust” to a poignant if not entirely uplifting conclusion.

The writing is solid, but it’s the actors who deserve the most applause for making the drama work. Schwimmer is occasionally too blunt with his direction, doing a technically competent job overall, but guilty of stylistically exaggerating certain facets in the process. There are several dream sequences which are overwrought, an Instant messaging tic feels outdated and the motel room where Annie suffers her ordeal is lit like a medieval dungeon. Similarly Viola Davis often feels only like a vessel for the film to obviously explain its message, the downplayed intelligence of other moments disregarded in favour of preachy sermons.

The story is compelling for the duration, “Trust” providing us with a chance to gaze upon every parent’s worst nightmare. During the credits Schwimmer inserts a short piece of video footage designed to offer closure on one of the film’s less prominent figures. It’s a haunting addition to this already draining tale, but more importantly it signifies a stroke of mesmerizing genius on behalf of the director. After “Run Fatboy Run” I was actively dreading Schwimmer’s next gig behind the camera, but now on the basis of “Trust” I’m thirsting for more from the artist formerly known as Ross Geller.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011


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