How much do you really know about your kids’ online activity? Trust is a film about online deception, particularly the dangers of social networking, and it highlights an important message. The first time I watched the film I was wary of certain narrative decisions (which we’ll get to), but I certainly appreciated the film’s honesty, and the way it put a serious issue under the microscope, in order to raise greater attention. My 13-year-old sister has just got her own laptop, and I wonder about how safe she actually is; obviously the answer is not to look over her shoulder, but how else should her activity be monitored? How is safety to be ensured without taking away her individuality, or repressing her ability to learn for herself? The second time I watched the film was with my parents, and they became aware of the same problem. They sat down with my sister and discussed the issues raised, and I feel this was valuable. Trust is rated 15, but I’d recommend it to anybody over the age of 12, because they are the audience who will benefit from it most. Normally I’d back the BBFC, as they are still a vital body, but this time I think they’ve got it dead wrong. Please, watch Trust with your kids. It’s a compelling drama; relevant, thought-provoking and, at times, deeply moving.
Annie (Liana Liberato) is a 14-year-old girl in love with life; she wants to be cooler, sure, and hang out with the older girls, but that’s a pretty common feeling in High School. She gets a laptop for her birthday (some wonderful Mac marketing from Clive Owen, playing her father Will), and soon starts chatting with a boy named Charlie, who at first tells her that he’s 16. Soon he becomes 20, and then 25, but she keeps this to herself, because he’s charming, and tells her that he’s in love. Naivety leads her to meet Charlie at the mall, where he turns out to be 35 (and played by Chris Coffey). He tricks her into going to a motel. Here he rapes her and, in a creepy reveal, turns out to be recording the event. Annie’s secret is discovered but her psyche warps and represses the memory, and through a defence mechanism she thinks she’s in love with Charlie. Counselling doesn’t seem to help, and the ensuing F.B.I. investigation turns up few results. This must happen to thousands of families, and I can’t imagine the pain they go through…
So, those initial problems. On my first watch I questioned some of the narrative decisions after the 40-minute mark, at which point the film seemed to lose focus and become a little too TV Movie Of The Week. I didn’t quite believe in Annie’s naivety, which I described as “innocence-in-extremis“, as if she were “an avatar representative of all the young girl’s who’ve been groomed online.” After she’s been raped the film moves its attention away from Annie and onto her parents, especially Will, who begins to fantasize about killing Charlie; there’s even a sequence where he trips out on anger in a gun shop, imagining getting his hands on the man, and the film suddenly threatens to turn into a high-octane version of Death Sentence (James Wan, 2007). The film becomes a little silly, especially when an entire plot point rests upon F.B.I. Agent Dawson (Max Bassett) going for a bathroom break, and leaving behind vitally classified information which Will then steals. Some of this still felt a little awkward second time around – especially the laughable use of a fake site called PervertTracker.com – but I generally felt much more comfortable with the film.
Because what really sells even the silliest of plot developments are the performances, especially from the young Liberato, who is talented way beyond her years. The depth of her performance is astonishing and she displays real maturity when dealing with the conflicted emotions of her character. There isn’t a single false note in her portrayal, and certainly it’s her skilled turn which holds the entire film together. Schwimmer has discovered a bright new talent, and it’ll be fascinating to see what she does next. But Owen is also on commanding form here, exuding at first charm and then fear, channelling the frustrations of a father who was unable to save his daughter, or see the signs of her being in danger. His is a subtle turn, and I recognized a truth in it this second time around that hadn’t quite clicked with me before. Indeed, when you’re really invested in the characters, even the sharpest departure from realism can be effective, and that’s the case here. I wish the script were a little more focused in its second half, but Trust is still an excellent piece of work; brave and dramatically uncompromised, with an important message for our generation.
To be perfectly honest, you’ll be fine going with the DVD on this one. The Blu-Ray transfer is okay, but there’s nothing really standout about the aesthetic to make the bumped-up price of Blu worth your extra cash. This isn’t the most visually adventurous film, and the drama will be just as pointed on the cheaper DVD version.
There’s only one extra, and that’s a 16-minute Making Of doc, in which the actors and filmmakers talk about the relevance of the film, the importance of its subject and then engage in your usual back-slapping, although it feels genuine here: everyone is really passionate about the project. That definitely shows onscreen.
Trust is out on DVD and blu-ray 29th August 2011.
Director: David Schwimmer
Stars: Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Liana Liberato
Runtime: 106 min