Though one can appreciate the serious intent behind David Schwimmer’s second feature as a director, “Trust” comes across as a big-screen version of a Lifetime Network movie—more sharply drawn and powerfully delivered, perhaps, but essentially cut from the same cloth.
Liana Liberato gives a forceful, credible performance as Annie Cameron, a 14-year old Chicago girl who makes the mistake of developing an on-line friendship with 16-year old Charlie, who proves a more sympathetic listener than her parents Will (Clive Owen) and Lynn (Catherine Keener). And her older brother Peter (Spencer Cumutt) has just gone off to college, leaving her the only youngster in the household.
Liana agrees to meet with Charlie, who of course turns out to be an older man (Chris Henry Coffey). And though she initially put off by his deception, she spends the day with him, eventually winding up in his motel room. The encounter naturally has a potent psychological effect, leading a school friend to report the matter to the police. Their investigation has a shattering effect on the family, especially Will, who refuses to leave the matter to the authorities, represented by FBI agent Tate (Jason Clarke) and becomes obsessed with tracking the man down himself. His efforts strain his relationship with Lynn, and especially with Annie, who continues to believe in Charlie and sees her father’s attitude toward her as intrusive and untrusting, though a kindly counselor (Viola Davis) eventually helps her confront the truth.
As a monitory piece about the dangers of connecting with others via cyberspace, “Trust” is certainly on target. And it’s equally correct about the shattering effect an episode like this—which happens all too often—has on individual victims and their families. Schwimmer has also assembled a strong cast for the picture, and they don’t disappoint. And while the physical production is relatively modest, its simplicity is appropriate to the material.
And yet despite its many admitted virtues and good intentions, the film comes across as a very familiar cautionary tale of the sort that cable television specializes in. To be sure, the parent who goes after the villain would probably be the mother (and probably a single mother at that), and the ending would be more cut-and-dried. But the purpose and effect would be pretty much the same.
That doesn’t mean that “Trust” isn’t worth seeing. But it does mean you shouldn’t expect too much from it.