David Schwimmer’s Trust opens with the track “Give a little” by Hanson. A teenage girl is preparing breakfast, only to follow it with her morning jog. The camera invisibly places itself on various corners of the room while it continues to scan her every move. But she has not the slightest idea. Cut to the title card “Trust”, designed in the plainest white font on a black background and let the track slowly fade away. You trust that this sets the tone for the film, a light teen drama.
Annie is celebrating her birthday with her family at a dinner table. You sense the unconditional positive regard shared. In school, Annie is merely an existence. The ‘cool’ girl invites her to a party, one that has teenagers doing the most taboo things. Annie is intimidated by their exuded sexual sophistication and returns home with a bad taste in her mouth. She tries talking to her dad about how they freaked her out but he cuts her saying that he’s busy with work. She turns to Charlie, a teenage boy with similar athletic interests. He tells her what she wants to hear. There begins their cyber relationship.
Charlie slowly reveals that he’s actually a twenty-year old sophomore. Annie lets it pass. Soon, twenty becomes twenty-five. Two months in, they meet at a mall. Charlie shows up as a middle-aged man. It deeply upsets Annie. How carefully (yet effortlessly) he coaxes her into sleeping with him from that point is disturbingly real. Deep inside she knows she’s making a mistake, one after the other but she doesn’t think such an opportunity will come again and gives in trusting that nothing will go wrong. The verbal ruses that Charlie uses to manipulate Annie... just brilliant screenwriting. Even petty comments on an ice cream flavour such as “You win, Pistachio rocks” earns her trust.
There’s no kicking or screaming, he’s gently coaxed her into it. When he gets on top of her, she begins to panic. There’s a conflict between the panic and a mix of a need for, sexual sophistication and, acceptance. She looks away and focuses on a patch of bright light on the wall of the dark room looming over her- a brilliant visual metaphor that hints at where she’s headed for.
“Charlie and I had sex. I am in love with him.” She tells her BFF. If there’s something that’s bothering her, it’s that he no longer returns her phone calls. Her BFF, out of options, informs an authority at school. A federal case is made out of it bringing in FBI agent, Doug (Jason Clarke) and rape counsellor, Gail (Viola Davis).
Annie’s father, Will (Clive Owen) is plagued with vivid images of how the event must’ve taken place. He’s angry one moment, furious the next, sometimes confused about the severity of the situation and often meandering at whom to pin the responsibility on. And Clive Owen reaches all of these emotions with perfection, delivering his best performance yet. Just watch him in the final scene where he’s suffocated by a sense of guilt. Sixteen year old Liana Liberato gives an exceptional performance, a naked display of hidden vulnerabilities. As the sexual predator, Chris Henry Coffey is a face you aren’t likely to ever forget.
What I admire most about Trust is the staggering depths provided to the characters. Within a fairly small time frame, we see the characters develop significantly. It’s a difficult subject but Schwimmer handles it with insight, sensitivity and understanding. He also leaves personal touches on sexual awareness, teenage insecurities and image selling in a capitalistic world. He brings out the irony in Will’s job, as the marketing executive of a clothing company. It is this very image that is bought by impressionable teens such as Annie, which puts them at similar risks.
He believes we’ve reached the peak of civilization and we’ve begun to decivilize. Trust is about how easily we perceive things at face value. About how easily we accept fronts put up by people little realizing there’s a dark side to every one of them. That we might be shielding ourselves from the truth- We’re not a race of civilized human beings. We are a race of animals with civilized personas.
I’ve seen Trust thrice and I can safely declare it a masterpiece.