Saturday, 9 July 2011

Film Review: Trust

It's every parent's worst nightmare; your young child falling prey to online paedophiles. Try as you might, you can't track everything your kids get up to. Trust is film about such matters, and while Daily Mail readers will most likely point to it as evidence for the internet to be banned, this is more a tentative exploration of how such horrible events and their subsequent aftermath can befall even the most stable and loving families.

Annie (Liberato) is an ordinary fourteen-year old girl. She likes volleyball and spending inexcusable amounts of time connected to the internet. Annie befriends someone who she believes to be a teenage boy online, 'Charlie' (Coffey), only to discover that he's not all he says he is. Having been 'groomed', Annie agrees to meet, resulting in events spiralling out of control.

Trust attempts to create contemplative themes, delving into Annie's psyche and her attempts to deal with the fallout. To an extent it succeeds in many areas, showing that even with the best parenting in the world these things can still happen. 'Charlie' manages to build a base level of trust with Annie, allowing him to incrementally reveal his real age. Because the original covenant is never really broken, Annie persists and agrees to meet him for what ensues to be a creepy date at the mall, resulting with an even more harrowing scene in a garish motel room. If anything, the more frightening prospect is how 'easily' this man manipulates an otherwise levelheaded, sensible young girl. Liberato certainly embodies that idealistic invincibility of a teenager, and shows her range with anger and hurt when her innocent view of the world is shattered. However, there are cracks in her otherwise accomplished performance. Liberato's portrayal of stockholm syndrome for her tormentor for example is less than convincing.

Likewise, the film begins to falter about midway through. Trust certainly misses a trick or two as the limelight shifts away from what should be the central tenet that is a mental exposition of Annie trying to cope with it all. By the third act Annie's father, Will (Owen), who ironically works as a marketing executive for sexy teen fashion, commands so much screen time that one might be forgiven that it was he who had been raped. This all comes to a head in one ridiculously unnecessary scene where he compounds his daughter's crippling trauma by embarrassing her infront of the whole school. Indeed, there's certainly moments of needless melodrama which only detracts from the issue as the film occasionally takes it upon itself to branch off into the thriller-esque police investigations and Will's extreme quest for vengeance. What it really should be delivering is a more honed experience focussing on the family's turmoil as a whole rather than meandering into superfluous distractions.

Another problem with Trust is that it doesn't quite know how to end. Admittedly, it is difficult to give any finality to a film of this nature as such harrowing events stay with the victims for the rest of their lives. It would be a grave injustice to the tone and the subject matter if everything turned out 'ok'. Indeed, it's actually thoroughly deflating for something to come out of the land of sunshine and lollipops that is Hollywood. Nonetheless, it doesn't quite pull the 'pause for thought' mechanic it appears to want, rather merely finishing quite abruptly.

One might notice that Trust is a marked change in tone for David Schwimmer, previously having directed the comedy Run Fat Boy Run, as well as episodes of Little Britain: USA and Joey. Dig a little deeper however and Schwimmer is actually an active director of the Rape Treatment Centre in Santa Monica which specializes treating victims of date and child rape. The most admirable thing about this film is that you can see this is clearly an issue close to Schwimmer's heart as the subject material is treated with the utmost tact and reverence. For all its distractions, you can't fault Schwimmer for creating such an emotive and poignant piece.

Trust is deeply unsettling in places and may well make your skin crawl. What's most jarring is the utter lack of sympathy or understanding society has for such cases. While kids can be cruel (and they are to Annie), even Will's boss, a supposed mature adult, spouts unthoughtful and inconsiderate drivel. This is as much an exploration of the victim as it is a condemnation of society's lack of empathy for rape victims.
Trust can be highly perceptive in places, but it veers off course once too often for it to be as powerful as it perhaps could have been.