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Retrospective Film Review: David Schwimmer’s Trust

Sunday 29 March 2015

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Words Ailis Mara

It’s always difficult to cite lack of narrative cohesion as reasoning to why a movie doesn’t quite work when the filmmaker in question is in possession of specialised knowledge pertaining to the film’s thematic content. Here, the filmmaker is David Schwimmer, whose involvement with the Rape Foundation spans eighteen years, and who’s served on its board of directors for fourteen. For the seven years leading up to Trust‘s release in 2010, Schwimmer researched the specific crime documented in his film – that of the online grooming of teenagers by sex offenders.

Liana Liberato plays fourteen-year-old Annie Cameron, who on her birthday takes possession of a new MacBook from her loving parents Will (Clive Owen) and Lynn (Catherine Keener). Via a chatroom, Annie makes contact with Charlie, ostensibly a high-schooler, with whom she shares an instant rapport. Charlie, however, is soon incrementally and confessionally bumping up his age in line with the pair’s increasing intimacy, their IMs appearing as onscreen text over the action, and whatever suspicions Annie has are overridden by their growing closeness and her flattery at Charlie’s investment in her. Eventually, the two meet and inevitably and excruciatingly, the predator preys.

Trust is very much a film of two intertwined halves; there’s Schwimmer’s evidently meticulously-researched, instructive and cautionary tale, acted with preternatural ferocity by Liberato, and the cause-and-effect fallout experienced by the parents, with Will’s character pursuing a near-vigilante storyline that threatens to derail the film’s coasting authenticity.

Ultimately, a good film is about more than just a nobly delivered and worthy message. Ironically, I’ve long-moaned about the irritating propensity to sex-up documentaries with various cinematic trickery, but here, Trust seems stuck in a no-man’s-land of competent docu-drama. The subject matter is certainly sobering however, and Schwimmer knows how to handle the delicate material with the right amount of sensitivity and shocking revelation.