Wednesday 15 December 2021

Movie Review: Trust (2010)

A drama about the devastating impacts of child grooming, Trust is the uncompromising tragedy of a family torn apart by an insidious assault.

In Chicago, Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) is a 14 year-old high school student and member of the school's volleyball team. She comes from a middle class family, supported by her dad Will (Clive Owen) and mom Lynn (Catherine Keener). 

Through a teen chat on-line portal, Annie is in communication with Charlie, who claims to be a 15 year-old volleyball player at another school. Their contact develops into a friendship then an on-line romance, although Charlie continuously obfuscates about his real age. Through flattery and sexual chat, Annie is increasingly attracted to the now clearly older stranger. She agrees to meet him at the mall, and when Charlie (Chris Henry Coffey) shows up, he appears to be in his mid-30s. He nevertheless sweet-talks her into a sexual encounter. 

Annie's best friend Brittany (Zoe Levin) alerts the school that Annie has been raped. Will and Lynn's lives are shattered. The FBI's Doug Tate (Jason Clarke) starts to investigate, while hospital counselor Gail Freedman (Viola Davis) supports Annie. But although Charlie has broken contact, Annie does not think of herself as a victim, and instead believes her assailant truly loves her.

Directed by David Schwimmer (from television's Friends) and written by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger, Trust is often painful to watch. The process of grooming is portrayed with a sense of searing dread, and Annie's trusting descent into the clutches of a predator is a stab into the heart of a supposedly safe, secure, and supportive middle class household.

A well-adjusted 14 year old with typical body image and fitting-in anxieties is still susceptible to a master manipulator. By the time Annie finds herself in a scuzzy motel room in her underwear, she is convinced Charlie not only deeply loves her, but is the only adult who values and understands her. What follow after the assault is, if possible, more disturbing. Multiple fissures crack open the family unit's foundation, Annie now hostile towards adults she perceives as destroying her love life.

Trust is as much about the parents as the child. Annie's father Will is crushed that his supposedly bright daughter ignored all the red flags and did not turn to him for advice, and his anger explodes when he is exposed to her record of sexting with Charlie. Flustered, he haphazardly turns to everything from predator-hunting vigilante groups to gun stores, straining his marriage. 

As a quiet drama, Trust leans heavily on the cast, and Clive Owen and Liana Liberato are both excellent at opposite ends of a fragile father-daughter dynamic. They deliver deeply moving performances conveying tension, passive-aggressiveness, anguish, and distress.

The narrative harnesses impressive dramatic strength, but a few of weaknesses surface. The FBI appears oblivious that Charlie was on full view in a shopping mall supposedly full of surveillance cameras, and their initial post-assault response of pressuring the victim to reconnect with her assailant is markedly under-prepared. Will's macho-man antics at a school volleyball game are unnecessary.

Although Annie's unexpected moment of reckoning arrives courtesy of agent Tate's investigation, repairing all the ruptured familial bonds will be a slow and painful process. Trust makes no attempts to reassemble all the broken pieces, and instead underlines frustration and uncertainty as lingering outcomes of heinous violation.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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