There have been movies that have dealt with the aftereffects of rape before – even of minors – but none have examined those aftereffects as deeply as David Schwimmer’s Trust.
Trust begins with young Annie [Liana Liberato] living a happy, mostly terrific life with her family and friends. At fourteen, she’s a bit nervous about moving up to high school, where she hopes to make the volleyball team.
She teases and is teased by her older brother [Spencer Curnutt] and enjoys a very good relationship with her parents, Will [Clive Owen] and Lynn [Catherine Keener] – though with her older brother going off to college, they’ve been a bit more preoccupied with him, leaving her to chat and text with her friends. Among those friends is Charlie, a fellow fourteen-year old who also plays volleyball. Because they have so much in common, they text a lot.
Will works hard [he’s in PR] and spends a fair bit of time at work, where he and his best friend, Al [Noah Emmerich] are doing very well. His increasing absence means Lyn has more to do at home and leaves Annie even more time to spend chatting online, or texting.
Before long, Charlie [Chris Henry Coffey] informs her that he’s really a college sophomore who lied about his age because he didn’t want her to think he was arrogant about giving her advice because he’d been playing longer than her. Then he says he’s a grade student; and then, when they meet, he’s actually much older – but he’s smooth and sincere and convinces her to have sex with him.
When she tells her best friend what happens, the friend tells the school principal and soon the FBI is investigating. Even after FBI Agent Doug Tate [Jason Clarke] talks with Annie and her parents and she is sent appointments with rape treatment center counselor Gail Friedman [Viola Davis], she holds on to the belief that she and Charlie are soulmates, and defends him.
It isn’t until Agent Tate presents her with Charlie’s other victims – not girlfriends, as he’d told her, but minors who filed rape charges – that she realizes what has happened to her and her life falls apart, along with that of her family. Especially her father.
Trust’s script, by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger, pulls no punches and director Schwimmer elicits uniformly excellent performances from his cast, but even as we follow the emotional heart of the story – and realize that rape may not be the worst thing that’s happened to Annie.
Everything in her life has been built on trust and that has disappeared precisely because of misplaced trust. Will, especially, loses sight of what’s happening with Annie as he tries to find Charlie. That becomes his sole purpose for being – to the point that he no longer even sees Annie as a person but as his own personal failure – and it almost destroys his family.
As Annie sinks into depression and Will focuses his anger on Charlie, Lynn is left trying to hold everything together, and a point comes when she becomes angry, too, but not for the same reasons. When she finally explodes, there is a feeling of something approaching catharsis – and revelation.
Trust should be riveting. It is a gloves-off treatment of the effects of rape – and especially the kind that comes when a pedophile grooms a minor on the internet. There are scenes that are almost unwatchable because they are so true to life – and life is often very difficult to deal with.
The problem is that Trust often feels like it’s more of a message than an entertainment. Much of the dialogue from Agent Tate and Gail feels like pamphleteering, or a particularly boring health class. With all of its truthful scenes, Trust delivers an impact that is somewhat diluted by those moments – and made harder to bear by pacing that frequently slows to a crawl.
The DVD box for Trust includes a quote from Roger Ebert, calling it ‘one of the year’s best films.’ If intentions were all that mattered, it would be. Somehow, despite riveting performances and many emotionally powerful scenes – and especially fine work by Owen, Keener and Liberato – Trust winds up as a good, rather than great, movie that has something to say but doesn’t, quite, say it as well as it wanted to. Even so, it’s an important film about a real issue.
Features: The Story of Trust [20-minutes Making Of Featurettes]; Behind the Scenes [EPK footage], and Interviews with The Cast.
Grade: Trust – B
Grade: Features – C+
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The box art shown is for the Canadian release.