fri 18/10/2019

Trust | reviews, news & interviews

Trust

Trust

Evil on the internet makes for a gripping film from director David Schwimmer

`Hello, Annie': Liana Liberato chats up danger in David Schwimmer-directed film

Do you know where your teenagers are? If they're smart, they'll be somewhere watching Trust, the sophomore directorial effort from actor David Schwimmer that turns out to be as deftly compelling as it is unnerving. The depredations of the internet are there to be pondered at the current ENO/Nico Muhly opera Two Boys, and they make for even scarier fare in a drama about a social network - namely the family - that starts badly to fray once the parents realise that they can't police their 14-year-old daughter online.

Schwimmer's film bears no relation to the 1990 Hal Hartley movie of the same name even as it connects in numerous ways to a culture where strangers can become friends - intimates, even - behind the safety (or is it?) of a computer screen. Who needs the terrors of a blind date when you can tell (and learn) all about one another from the refuge of a laptop, except that such discourse has a way of burrowing deep into one's unspoken needs to an extent that sociologists and the like are only beginning to comprehend.

Working from a script by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger, Schwimmer's movie traverses pretty dark terrain, indeed, and there are several scenes that - even three months following a screening - make my flesh crawl just to recollect them. I never knew prior to Trust of the acronym PWOMS ("parent watching over my shoulder", for anyone taking notes), but I was certainly aware that the internet is crawling with creeps, this film's resident one - a perv called Charlie - decidedly creepier than most.

But the Charlies of the world wouldn't exist without the landscape of loneliness and desire that makes their predatory ways possible. Annie (Liana Liberato) is at that awkward age where parents are a pain and her older brother is going his own cool way, which in this instance means off to college. So she's ripe for the advances made over the web by a putative California jock who might seem pretty cool himself if he didn't keep revising his age upwards, stopping at more than twice the number of years (16) that he initially told Annie.

trust4A middle child psychologically adrift in her own home, Annie finds enough of a safe haven in Charlie's online persona that she agrees eventually to an actual meet, the specifics of which are best here left opaque. Suffice to say that Annie's actions succeed only in eroding the trust between her parents, Will (Clive Owen) and Lynn (Catherine Keener), who react to their daughter's displaced affections with varying degrees of anger, panic and distress. That Will is an ad exec working in an environment busy sexualising young women only complicates an environment that traffics in moral greys, not just obvious black-and-whites, as a father finds himself implicated however unwittingly in the same scourge that risks swallowing up his daughter.

Showing a sensitivity to performance that one wouldn't necessarily have anticipated, Schwimmer does expert work with his entire cast, from the wonderful Viola Davis (Doubt) as a therapist busy trying to crack Annie's increasingly sullen carapace to Chris Henry Coffey's "Charlie", whose bonhomie itself seems terrifyingly bruised. Keener and Owen (pictured above) are immediately believable as a couple who've known their share both of joy and upset, the two playing together with such ease that one is reminded anew just how few natural-seeming marriages Hollywood these days can manage.

Suggestive of a young Julia Stiles, Liberato treads precisely that fine line between innocence and experience that the internet exists to erode, which is why parents in 2011 in some ways know far less about their children than they did back when Tennessee Williams's Tom Wingfield told his fretful mother that he was going to the movies. Annie doesn't have to resort to such deception in Trust when a few hastily typed non-sentences will do. But when Will in desperation finds himself a nom de chatroom (!), it's hard not to feel modern technology pulling everyone into its pitiless, dramatically pungent morass.

Watch the trailer for Trust

The internet is crawling with creeps, this film's resident one - a perv called Charlie - creepier than most

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