There are so many ways Trust could have gone wrong, but in the hands of director David Schwimmer and screenwriters Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger, it’s a masterpiece – a film that tackles delicate subject matter with insight, intelligence, and compassion. We’re made to think that it’s the story of a suburban teenage girl groomed and raped by an internet predator, but it’s nowhere near that simple; it’s really the story of what happens after the rape, of how the incident itself can actually be less traumatic than the aftermath. In its willingness to be so direct and uncompromising, in its compelling portrayal of emotional yet authentic domestic drama, this movie belongs on the same shelf as Revolutionary Road, Rabbit Hole, and Blue Valentine. This is one of the year’s best films.
It begins on a note of almost Rockwellesque idealism, with a strong family living a happy life in an upper-class Chicago suburb. At the core of the story is the middle child, Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato), who, next to Win Win’s Kyle Timmons, is probably the year’s most realistic teenage character. She’s well adjusted, a part of her school’s volleyball team, and she clearly loves her family. But at just fourteen, she’s also naïve, insecure about her appearance, not into the party scene, and aware that boys don’t pay attention to her the way they do her popular classmates. She finds solace with her boyfriend, Charlie, and although they have never met in person, they speak to each other on a regular basis via an internet chat room. They also speak over the phone. He too is in high school, and he plays volleyball. He e-mails pictures as proof. The more they talk, the more she feels understood. She loves him.
Over time, Charlie makes a few confessions. First, he’s actually a twenty-year-old college student. Then, he’s really a twenty-five-year-old grad student. Although Annie is disappointed by his lies, she forgives him – he really knows exactly what to say to make her feel better. The day finally comes when they meet in person at a local mall. Annie sees him before the audience does, and her expression tells us everything we need to know. Charlie (Chris Henry Coffey) is clearly not a grad student. In fact, he looks to be in his mid to late thirties. Annie begins to cry, but Charlie is a master manipulator; his voice his soft and his words are reassuring. He convinces her to get into his car. He drives her to a motel, where he has her try on a red bra and panties he bought her as a gift. She sits down next to him on the bed. And then ...
If this were any other movie, this would probably be the sum of the film’s emotional impact. The genius of this film is that examines what happens after the initial ordeal, and it does so without having to downplay or sentimentalize. Annie tells her best friend, who then, out of concern, tells the school principal. This is when Annie is taken by the police, examined with a rape kit, and plunged into the middle of an FBI investigation. Her life is being intruded on, and her reputation has been ruined. She believes she would have been better off not saying anything at all. Besides, as she confides her to therapist, Gail (Viola Davis), she knows Charlie loves her. She just knows it. If her parents would actually get to know him, they might feel differently.
One of the crucial story points is the relationship between Annie and her father, Will (Clive Owen), an advertising executive whose latest campaign exploits young women and is catered to the teen clothing market. He isn’t at all a bad man – he just doesn’t know how to process his rage. Rather than take the first steps towards healing, he lets his guilt consume him; he not only becomes obsessed with capturing Charlie, but also with learning about sex offenders and how to locate them. It can be argued that, by raping Annie, Will is also one of Charlie’s victims. That being said, what he’s going through isn’t at all comparable to what Annie is going through. His wife, Lynn (Catherine Keener) – a loving mother and generally a good woman – is sensible enough to know that his behavior is not conducive to their daughter’s well being.
The final scene is little more than a conversation between father and daughter, and yet it conveys such amazing depth and sincerity that it’s a work of art in and of itself. It also, emotionally speaking, pales in comparison to what we see during the end credits, which is devastating in its correct assertion that, when it comes to rape, there really isn’t any such thing as a happy ending. Victims can heal and perpetrators can be caught, but far too many people on both sides of the law slip through the cracks. With Trust, Schwimmer is not content to offer easy answers; that’s the right way to approach this material because, really, there aren’t any easy answers. His goal was to honestly and unflinchingly examine a sensitive issue, and I believe he has done exactly that.
*** out of **** I'm usually against films as one-sided about a situation as "Trust"; a film that lacks as much depth as it already has. The film was directed by David Schwimmer, who is a regular on the television sitcom "Friends", and went from that to his directorial debut, "Run Fat Boy Run". With this film, he has made something different, and perhaps something better. But his first feature was a comedy, and "Trust" is a drama. I cannot compare the two without drawing a … more
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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