Fourteen year-old Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) is a high school volleyball player who aspires to get in with the popular set. She's got a loving, supportive family with an older brother gearing up to leave for college. But it's Charlie, the slightly older, handsome guy she met in an online chat room who gives her sports advice and strokes her feminine ego. It's Charlie in whom she places her "Trust."
Working with a complex and sensitive script by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger ("In the Bedroom"), sexual abuse survivor advocate David Schwimmer ("Run, Fatboy, Run") has made a film that, while not perfect, addresses its subject with all its shadings. He's particularly effective working with young actress Liberato, who delivers a breakout performance here. While Schwimmer finds all the creepy horror in the rape of an underage girl by a thirtysomething guy, it's how he handles the fallout, especially Annie's denial and youthful fantasies, that make "Trust" worth watching.
Annie's parents Will (Clive Owen, "Children of Men," "Duplicity") and Lynn (Catherine Keener, "Please Give") hear all about Charlie, but accept, as Annie does, that he's just seventeen. The filmmakers even make a point of Will looking over Annie's shoulder as she chats away, both her and her online pal expressing embarrassment at the intrusion. Annie's desire to grow up is noted by her and best friend Brittany's uneasy yet hopeful attendance at a party thrown by the popular Serena, who'd only hoped Annie would bring her older brother along, and buy her purchase of a leopard print bra which mom immediately orders her to return. All this is normal young teenage stuff. Then things begin to get weird.
When he finally sends her a picture of himself, Charlie admits that he's really twenty. Annie's rightly troubled, but things quickly smooth over. She doesn't tell her parents about this latest development, but does confide in Brittany - the attention of an even older man adds excitement. Then his age creeps up a few more years and she wonders why he's lying. Still, on the weekend mom and dad leave her in the care of her aunt while they take her brother to college, Charlie suddenly insists they should meet and she agrees. The man who finds her (Chris Henry Coffey) in the mall is clearly past his prime, a blue oxford shirt and chinos covering the beginning of thirtysomething spread, his blonde handsomeness obscured by stubble.
Liberato lets us clearly see all of Annie's alarm bells going off, yet she's persuaded to go for an ice cream. Her friend Brittany, working at a mall store, sees her wonder off with the guy. Gradually Charlie pushes Annie more and more, until she's modeling the red bra and panty set he bought for her in his hotel room. When Annie goes downhill after the experience, Brittany tells their school counselor, who involves the police. Annie rejects everyone's concern, insisting that Charlie loves her. Dad goes ballistic, shadowing a known neighborhood sexual offender, stealing the chat room transcript the police have dug out. He's horrified by the sexually provocative things his daughter has written. Things finally come to an emotional head when Gail (Viola Davis, "Doubt"), a counselor, shows Annie pictures of other girls that have been traced back to the same man in the chat room.
"Trust" does have some problems. Schwimmer frequently veers into TV movie-of-the-week territory, but keeps pulling things back with his actors' emotional honesty. Dad's job as an advertising executive in charge of youth campaigns using young models as sexual teases is a less than subtle parallel and his boss (Noah Emmerich, "Pride and Glory," "Fair Game") is an insensitive boor. There are a couple of odd technical fumbles as well, like the dingy lighting used in the grand old Cameron home and mom's cell phone ring which goes off like an old rotary behemoth at a sensitive moment.
The ensemble cast is terrific, though, with Owen and Keener anguishing in their own ways. Coffey is quietly unsettling, a real wolf in sheep's clothing. "Trust" really gets to the heart of why romantic relationships require equivalent levels of maturity and that exploiting a child is like throwing a rock into a pond. The ugliness of rape kit steps is magnified when the subject is only fourteen, but the effects on a young girl's self esteem are even more devastating. The film's conclusion delivers some emotional healing but doesn't let the threat slip away.
Robin also gives "Trust" a B.
and Ratings Archive | Top
10 | Video
Reeling has been chosen as a Movie Review Query Engine Top Critic.