Trust Review

(2.5 STARS)

David Schwimmer is probably the last person you’d expect to direct a hard-hitting drama about rape, but with Trust, he’s done just that, and he does a solid job. He certainly deserves a great deal of credit for the extraordinary performances he coaxes out of all four of the main actors involved. I had a number of issues with the film on the whole, however. It often felt inauthentic—more like a PSA than a narrative film. There are some strange tonal issues (moments of the film feel as if they belong in a thriller of some kind). And the ending is far too abrupt to feel satisfying. But the performances are good enough to redeem the film, at least to a certain degree. I don’t regret watching it, but I’d say there’s definitely too much wrong with it to give it an unqualified recommendation.

Will (Clive Owen) is a successful ad executive with an adoring wife (Catherine Keener) and three wonderful children, including 14-year-old Annie (Liana Liberato). Having just started high school, Annie is a little unsure of herself, but she takes solace in the fact that she can tell anything to her closest friend, an online pal named Charlie. Her parents know, but assume the relationship is harmless. And it is for a while…until Charlie reveals that he’s not 16 but actually 20 and in college. But this doesn’t phase Annie, nor is she phased when he later admits he’s 25, not 20. This time, she’s hurt, but like Charlie says, age shouldn’t get in the way of a relationship like this. It’s not until the two actually meet that alarms start to go off. Charlie isn’t 25, he’s in his mid-thirties, but Annie is too shell-shocked to know what to do. She goes with him to his hotel room, and he has sex with her.

Soon after, Annie’s encounter with Charlie comes to the attention of the police and Annie’s parents. They’re stunned at what happened, but ultimately even more stunned that Annie wants to protect Charlie from the FBI investigators assigned to the case. She still believes in Charlie and their relationship, which drives Will crazy. He wants to kill him and becomes obsessed with tracking him down, even with his family falling apart around him. Ultimately, they both must come to terms with what happened, no matter how difficult that might seem.

As I stated earlier, the film is all about great performances. Clive Owen has never been more vulnerable and emotive than he is as Will. The character veers off in some odd directions, but he handles everything thrown at him with intensity and believability. His work is matched by that of Catherine Keener. She’s not given as much to do, but her role is no less important. Where Will becomes consumed by tracking down his child’s rapist, she worries herself more with Annie’s emotional well-being. This leads to some pretty raw and honest discussions and confrontations—some of the film’s best moments.

Both Owen and Keener are upstaged by relative newcomer Liana Liberato. Though her character borders on annoying at times, she’s a real breakout for totally giving herself over to the role and never falling into the realm of the totally hysterical. That’s not to say there aren’t any punch-to-the-gut scenes; there are. But they’re handled with care and they don’t ever feel inauthentic. If only I could say the same about the rest of the film…

My biggest issues with Trust were little moments that just felt like they didn’t belong in a film like this. One scene in which Will’s coworker finds out about the rape is one. He acts so inappropriately that it felt 100% staged, as if the filmmakers needed to show you how cavalierly some individuals act about rape. Maybe they do, but I have to think there was a better, less blatant way to convey that.

Another problem was the revenge thriller elements injected. And it’s not even the fact that Will becomes obsessed with tracking down Charlie that bothered me. That seems reasonable. It’s the ridiculous music that went along with it and the cliched things he says. Again, Owen should bear no blame for the the writing. He’s great, but I think he’s slightly cheated by the ill-conceived directions his character goes in.

If I seem a little harsher than usual about some seemingly small potatoes, it’s because Trust has so much going for it. But the final product is just off. The poor ending certainly doesn’t help matters, but even before that point, Trust feels unsatisfying on multiple levels.

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