When hearing David Schwimmer’s name most will automatically think back to his goofy, good-hearted character from the television comedy series “Friends”. What may surprise them is that Schwimmer is also the director of the 2010 feature film titled “Trust”, a bold and unflinching look at sexual abuse. This is no comedy. This is no lightweight drama. This film doesn’t skim around the edges of its topic. “Trust” is an honest examination – a cautionary tale focused on a topic that many would prefer to stay away from.
The film is based on a story written by Schwimmer. His inspiration came from his 14 years with The Rape Foundation, a group focused on support, prevention, and education about rape. Schwimmer’s intense research spanned seven years and took him to a number of individuals and families who have been decimated by these despicable crimes. For Schwimmer this was an important story to tell and his uncompromising yet sensitive approach does this highly relevant subject justice.
The film starts by showing us a strong, stable, and close family. Husband and wife Will (Clive Owen) and Lynn (Catherine Keener) are loving parents to their three children. Annie (Liana Liberato) is their strong and outgoing 14-year old. In almost systematic fashion the film shows the methodology and seduction of young Annie by a 35-year old internet predator going by the name of Charlie. It begins in an internet chat room and evolves to text messages and intimate phone calls. It starts with one lie followed by another and another until Annie gives in to Charlie’s manipulation.
The rape of a young girl is powerful and sobering material, but perhaps the film’s most compelling decision is to focus more on the aftermath and fallout than the actual transgression. Schwimmer takes us stage by stage through Annie’s coping struggles which range from denial to defending Charlie. At times Annie’s emotional battles are excruciating to watch mainly due to the deftly honest handling of the subject and Liberato’s revelatory performance. Liberato was actually 14-years old when the film was being made which gives so many of her scenes an even sharper and more unsettling edge. She is magnificent.
But the film goes further and examines several other consequences. It looks at distorted perceptions of sexual assault. It looks at internet bullying. It looks at the effects that such a horrible event can have on a family namely a devastated father. Clive Owen gives a performance that should have demanded Oscar recognition. He shows us a wounded father drowning in sadness, insuppressible rage, and unbridled guilt. And the scenes Owen shares with Liberato are powerful and heart-wrenching. Toss in great performances by the always reliable Keener and Viola Davis as Anna’s counsellor.
Schwimmer said in many ways this is a film about “parenting in the age of technology”. With so many children having smart phones, laptops, and tablets with open access to the internet, and with the sickening number of internet predators this is an extremely relevant topic. “Trust” is a startling and often troubling movie but an incredibly earnest and sensitive one as well. It sugarcoats nothing and offers no easy answers or quick solutions. It deals in painful reality. This could have easily been an exploitative and overly melodramatic project. Thankfully Schwimmer and his cast care about the topic and are deeply invested in getting it right. Ultimately that’s why “Trust” is such a gripping and forceful success.
VERDICT – 4.5 STARS