Trust
It’s so weird to put a voice to the font.


Theatrical Release Date: 04/01/2011
Director: David Schwimmer
Cast: Liana Liberato, Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis, Jason Clarke, Zoe Levin, Noah Crawford, Noah Emmerich
Rated: R for disturbing material involving the rape of a teen, language, sexual content and some violence.
Runtime: 1 hour, 46 minutes


Trailer:

Why doesn’t this guy understand, “OMG. BRB. LOL.”?

Disturbed individuals seeking vulnerable children to molest is sadly not a new phenomena. With the advent of the Internet, social networking and every other technological wonder allows us to be in constant contact with the people we know and to meet others from any corner of the globe. Of course, it also means that the pedophiles and abusers of the world basically have a delivery system at their fingertips.

As more and more kids are joining online communities, this gap of awareness between them and their parents continues to grow. It is perhaps at an all time high for teenagers today, whose parents were likely out of college before getting their first cell (back then, they just made phone calls). While we’ve all heard the warnings about divulging personal information, and can rationalize that its simply an honor code that keeps people from lying when they’re online, there’s still the notion that “it won’t happen to me, or my kids; they know better and we’ve raised them to make the right decisions.”

Well, parents, before you rely on that idea, think back to when you were a teenager. What advice from your mother/father did you ignore because you “knew what you were doing and could take of things yourself”? What rules did you break because they seemed too strict and cumbersome?

Sorry to be preachy but one of the many things that the film “Trust” (playing in select cities) hammers home is the need for parents to truly understand the social networking scene and to have an open dialogue with their kids. But what will be disconcerting to many with teenagers who spend hours every day blogging, chatting, and updating their Facebook pages, is that it still may not be enough to protect them from sex offenders who know how to manipulate the medium as well as their insecurities.

In the film, Illinois area high school freshman Annie (Liana Liberato) is your above average teenage girl. She’s excited and nervous about everything that comes with being 14: trying out for the volleyball team, being popular, and, most germane to the plot, discovering love. Her well meaning parents give her a laptop for her birthday, and unwittingly help set her on the dangerous path being explored in the script. From the outset, we’re introduced to a series of online chats between her and Charlie, a supposed fellow high school volleyball player from California offering her tips on how to make the squad. Of course, as you can surmise from the diatribe above (and the trailer should you choose to watch it), Charlie isn’t everything he seems to be.

The focus of the film isn’t necessarily the problem of online predators, however, it’s the ramifications of their abuse on a family. As the girl at the center of it all, Liberato delivers an award-caliber performance that is sure to draw attention from other filmmakers and casting agents. It’s heart-wrenching to see her walk into a trap, despite her obvious intelligence, as she succumbs to the emotional side of being 14 and still being innocent enough to the dangers of the world. The aftermath is equally tough to digest, as the script and her acting combine to paint a devastating portrait of what it means to be a victim of such a depraved person.

Not to be excluded from the acting praise, Clive Owen and Catherine Keener do a remarkable job as her parents. While Annie is the one directly harmed by Charlie, that pain is then transferred all around the family, and watching each parent handle the repercussions (while at times a bit like Oscar-bait) is intense to say the least. Also, serious kudos must go to Chris Henry Coffey, playing Charlie. He made my skin crawl and in a role like this, it means he did his job brilliantly.

From a directing standpoint, I’m happily surprised by the work of David Schwimmer. “Run Fatboy Run“was sweet but flawed and it was wonderful to see how he let the actors and the script speak for themselves here, being far more of a facilitator than an instigator in how the film develops. He also worked in graphical representations of online and phone chats excellently, making it flow and feel very natural, as opposed to being gimmicky or forced.

An additional subject being tackled here is the trend in going younger and younger with models in mainstream advertising as something that may only exacerbate things in terms of sexual attraction. As Owen’s character works in the ad industry, we see how his own work conflicts with the events that befall his daughter and how it affects him. While it’s not a subtle message, I appreciated that it was more of a visual and symbolic one rather than something that was oversold in some big speech.

Now, perhaps my biggest complaint with the film is that while I’d agree that the subject and the overall film should be seen by high school students who are often the targets of such crimes, the R-rating will probably ensure that won’t happen. I blame the film, and Schwimmer in particular, because I imagine that had a few unnecessary shots of ancillary nudity been removed, the argument could be made that this merited a PG-13 stamp from the MPAA. This less restrictive rating would have made the possibility of showing this in schools more likely.

As it stands, I think “Trust” is a film that parents with kids who haven’t left the nest yet should make a point to see, and I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 (The strength of Liberato’s performance alone is worth watching). Whether parents want to then show this to kids under 17 is up to them but at the very least, it will provide them with another viewpoint on how the trend to ensure we’re all connected 24/7 has its pitfalls as well as its benefits.

4 out of 5