Synopsis: Safe and sound in their suburban home, Will (Clive Owen) and Lynn Cameron (Catherine Keener) used to sleep well at night. When their 14-year-old daughter, Annie (Liana Liberato), makes a new friend on-line – a 16-year-old boy named Charlie – Will and Lynn don’t think much of it. But when Annie and Charlie make a plan to meet, the following 24 hours changes the family forever.
Trust is actor-turned-director David Schwimmer’s second effort behind the camera, and it marks a radical departure from 2007’s lighthearted comedy Run, Fat Boy, Run. Scripted by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger, Trust goes beyond examining the mere mechanics of how online predators work and delves deeper, exploring the ripple effects on the people and families affected, as well as our culture as a whole.
The first half is Trust at its best, playing out as an expertly crafted, slow-burning, deeply emotive character orientated drama. Schwimmer’s direction is both careful enough and sufficiently low-key to play second fiddle to the screenplay and terrific cast. He intelligently approaches the subject without any pre-conditioned ideas about online relations, predators, or rape, instead allowing audiences to make their own decisions with regard to the narrative. He simply presents the action as it plays, rather than focusing too much on one character or belief.
Schwimmer’s choice in tackling a subject that is still very much taboo in our culture is very brave, and it makes his accomplishment all the more impressive and commendable. Also, by doing so, he proves himself as a very socially conscious director, not one purely out to make audiences laugh, but also to make them think about their lives and how people could be endangering themselves on a day to day basis. The cross-platform seduction is horrifying plausible and will undoubtedly make the audience squeamish and seriously reconsider the way they, and the way their own children, present themselves online.
The second half, while still gripping, isn’t a touch on the first. By bringing in the FBI, the film suddenly, and rather annoyingly, turns into more of a fight-for-truth thriller. While still handled well by both Schwimmer and his cast, the latter scenes feel more standard, predictable, and significantly less affecting than those which came before.
Owen and Keener artfully portray Annie’s parents. Owen is incredible as Will, Annie’s overly protective father. Keener’s Lynn is a doting mother and wife, desperately trying to be there for her family. Her distress as things fall apart is wonderfully executed. Meanwhile, Keener’s Lynn is a more doting mother and wife, desperately trying to make her daughter feel human again after such an emotionally scarring act is committed. Her distress at Will’s inhumane behaviour is wonderfully executed. She’s unable to think, live, breathe and can’t understand Will’s anger.
Viola Davis makes a brief yet wholly key appearance as Annie’s guidance counsellor. She remains calm and respective of Annie’s distance and disbelief, slowing opening her up and making her realise her worth and the carelessness of her online behaviour. It’s Liberato, however, that’s the true revelation here. The mix of sweetness and intensity she brings to Annie is utterly spellbinding, providing a gut-wrenchingly honest and realistic portrayal of a young girl letting her emotions get ahead of her age. The Annie we see at the end is an entirely different character. The believability of this is a testament to Liberato’s performance.
Trust is an honest, haunting and socially relevant drama, supported by extraordinarily gripping performances across the board, an almost perfectly layered narrative and confident, restrained direction.