Trust (review)

For a goodly while, it does feel, depressingly, as if Trust is going to morph into one of those luridly melodramatic made-for-Lifetime flicks gone theatrical feature thanks to the presence of a stellar cast. That director David Schwimmer (Run, Fat Boy, Run) appears to be wasting the intensity of both Clive Owen (The Boys Are Back) and Catherine Keener (Cyrus) is then both a relief — this is not going to be Oh Dear God, No, Not My Daughter, No! — and a pity: why cast these two marvelous and powerfully engaging actors if they’re not going to bring the drama? It’s all very low key as Owen and Keener stand aside as the parents of 14-year-old Annie (the excellent Liana Liberato) while she is seduced into terrible situation by an Internet stalker (Chris Henry Coffey, appropriately deeply creepy) who pretends to be something he isn’t. We are on alert almost instantly on Annie’s behalf — in a way that even her loving and attentive parents cannot be — fully aware that the nice young boy she’s texting and IMing is nothing of the sort, and inexorably resigned to the pain it’s leading her into, and yet even the awful inevitability of what we’re watching isn’t enough to inject much energy into the proceedings. And then there’s the stuff that screenwriters Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger (In the Bedroom) can’t seem to be less than hamfisted about, like how Owen’s Dad is an ad exec who delights in campaigns featuring scantily clad models who look like underage teens and never realizes this could be a problem until his own sweet daughter is victimized. Still, Schwimmer’s matter-of-factness becomes a dose of bald reality in the second half of the film, and all is forgiven after two scenes of concentrated fury and anguish that are among Owen’s best work ever. And the harshness of reality runs even colder with the abrupt stinger of the film’s ending, which rejects the patness of the melodrama this might have been and rebukes it with a slap. How much Trust won me over is a measure of how far it takes itself beyond the expectations it creates for itself. Well done.

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