In it’s infancy, the internet was often referred to as the “Information Superhighway”. While an excellent marketing tool, somehow we became too enamored by the information and not by the highway aspect, which may have been more important. After all, what happens to cars when we neglect the roads?
Like emotional potholes caused by a disaster, Trust tackles that subject and it does so head on. Annie (Liana Liberato) is the 14-year-old with seemingly everything a girl could want. Girl next door looks, a loving family and a loyal best friend. Clive Owen plays Annie’s father, a successful ad executive and along with the mom, Lynn (Catherine Keener), they are the perfect suburbanite coupling.
However, beneath her confident veneer are insecurities that plague all girls her age. From doubts about her place on the volleyball team to not being cool enough to fit in with other girls at school, Annie struggles to navigate the waters of tweenhood. She begins chatting online with Charlie, a 16-year-old boy from a volleyball chatroom and the two become inseparable online. Through their online courtship, Charlie confesses that he’s not 16 but actually 25. When she meets him though she finds out that he’s over 40. And after seeing him in person at a mall, she falls deeper into his trap with tragic consequences.
It’s easy to be cynical about Annie being so naive as to literally and figuratively get in the car with a stranger. After all, children are too savvy to be taken in and groomed like this, right? Wrong. Director David Schwimmer knows the subject all too well as having been associated with the Rape Foundation for well over a decade. Relying on facts over mere anecdotal research, he was able to shine several lights at once on not only the crime, but the methodical grooming of the victim.
Trust deals with several aspects of the violent and secretive road on the superhighway. Not just the horrible crime, but its effects upon her family and friends. The film shows the entire family being assaulted by feelings of helplessness and anger in dealing not only with Annie’s rape, but also her shocking reaction to it.
Director David Schwimmer hits his second directorial pitch out of the park with his adaptation of the award winning play that he directed in Chicago. Schwimmer may be a beginner behind the camera, but he’s no amateur as he detours around the traps of falling into Lifetime or Afterschool Special territory. From the online chat motif of the opening credits to the near Hitchcock way of filming the rape, Schwimmer learns from others mistakes while never letting the message get lost.
Liana Liberato deserves all the praise in her big screen starring role as newcomer Hailee Steinfeld did for True Grit. She wears her emotions and even her deceptions on her face in a childlike way that lets parents and the audience know when something is amiss. It’s an acting skill that seems to come natural for her, which can also be credited to Schwimmer’s excellent direction. Her range from carefree teen to strident defender to jarring self-realization is done with a finesse that belies her years.
With subject matter this intense, the ship could’ve easily gone overboard if not for the excellent screenplay by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger, While there was some tweaking during a scene here or there, Schwimmer and company were wise to stay the course with the gift provided by Bellin and Festinger. The screenplay’s strength was amplified by the excellent casting. Clive Owen as the father pushed over the edge by the crime and frustrated by his daughter’s transformation before and after will send chills down the spine of almost any man.
Trust will have you leaving the theater thinking twice about how kids interact with strangers online and just how much you can have an effect on what they do. Its intensity and jarring performances will remind you that even on the superhighway, you can never afford to take your eyes off the road.