Trust centers around Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato), a fairly naïve 14-year-old suburban girl, and the middle child of a loving family led by parents Will and Lynn (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener). Weeks of online chatting with an out-of-town boy lead to an in-person meeting, where Annie discovers he’s considerably older than he represented. Nonetheless, she’s coerced into a sexual liaison, which has ruinous consequences for her and her family.
Director David Schwimmer work-shopped the script with Andy Bellin, one of the movie’s writers, and its layered attention to detail shows. Trust is populated with real, three-dimensional characters, and it captures both the modern-day connection between technology and teen life, as well as the manner in which adolescent judgment is reasonably fallible. For all the unsettling skill with which the film captures the somewhat darkly understandable identification and protective impulses that many statutory rape victims feel toward their abuser, the film is also heartrending in its depiction of the gulf between the female teenage victim of such an assault and especially her father. More than just about anything else males like to feel utility, of course, and the particular emasculation and patriarchal helplessness on display in Trust is both rare in modern American cinema, and strikingly devastating.
To that end, it goes almost without saying that the performances here are uniformly superb. Owen summons a tremendous amount of pathos and swallowed rage as Will — he seems to age, fray and crack before our eyes, long prior to any cathartic breakdown. And Liberato… well, burn that name into your memory. This likely won’t be her Winter’s Bone (and it’s worth noting, after all, that recent Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence absolutely shined in Lori Petty’s The Poker House two years prior to that breakthrough film), but it definitely marks Liberato as a young actress to watch, and will appropriately be the calling card that lands her many more films. (Millennium Entertainment, R, 106 minutes)