“Just because she didn’t scream doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape”
While writing my 2010 Toronto International Film Festival preview, I scoured the internet for poster images of the films I was to see. When it came to David Schwimmer’s sophomore effort Trust, all I discovered was a promo poster featuring a large, determined, floating head of Clive Owen set above a darkened, foreboding street featuring a man with his back turned, walking menacingly within. I’ll admit, I had no idea what the film was about, but having seen it now, I’m hoping this bit of marketing was fan-made because it infers a Taken-type storyline when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Introducing the work to his audience, Schwimmer shared some very intriguing contextual information on how the idea for the film came from working at the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica and talking to the patients there. A lot of those true-life tales are culled from and brought to life in this harrowing experience—one that will make any parent wonder if they should ban the internet from their homes.
The insane statistic from the Department of Justice that Schwimmer left us with before the lights dimmed was how 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. I don’t think anyone in attendance could wrap his/her head around those words. But that is part of what he and screenwriters Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger are after. They want to incite dialogue between kids and parents, opening the channels of communication so tragedies like the one depicted can be avoided. The Cameron family (Owen as Will and Catherine Keener as Lynn) is no different than any normal unit enjoying the spoils of a blessed life. They purchase their 14-year old daughter a MacBook and an iPhone so she can enhance her social life and find friends to share time with. There is her best friend from childhood, her brother leaving for college, and young sister at home, but the allure to fit in with the ‘Serenas’ of the world—the cool, popular girls—is too strong to ignore. As a result, the affections of a cute boy from across the country, met via chat room and continuing the conversation on the phone, are welcome and inviting.
Glen is just a boy her age giving volleyball tips and showing an interest in young Annie (Liana Liberato). Will doesn’t see a problem as long as his daughter turns off all electronics at curfew and continues to do well in school. But the identity of this boy begins to unravel as he apologizes when asked for a photo, saying he is in fact 25-years old. Everything they’ve shared doesn’t change due to the age difference, though, and he soothes her worries with compliments and flirtation, eventually initiating the prospect of meeting face-to-face. The revelation that he lied more, arriving at the mall rendezvous as a middle-aged Chris Henry Coffey, Glen puts on an embarrassed charm, calming down an hysterical Annie who’s unable to comprehend why this boy she has fallen for is a liar as old as her father. He’s been working on her for months, though, and the bond formed with her impressionable mind is too much to ignore, especially when he starts on how beautiful she is and how great she’ll look in the red lingerie he purchased. The next thing you know, they are in a hotel room and the camera tastefully shifts onto a beam of light on the wall—Annie no longer within her body, unable to register what exactly is happening to her.
But Trust isn’t necessarily about the rape or the trust in faceless strangers turning out to be pedophiles and criminals. The aftermath of emotions, the anger at failing your children and of a girl, thinking she’s in love, hating her family for pretending a tragic event occurred is what’s on display. Liberato is fantastic showing the troubled girl, so naïve and brainwashed that she believes what happened was natural. After all, girls at school are having sex all the time, what’s the difference besides the man who took her virginity being over twice her age? He said he loved her and she can’t fathom why that wouldn’t be true. The reason he has stopped talking to her isn’t because he is on to the next victim, but because her parents called the police and it has all become too dangerous. And while everyone can see how Annie has internalized the abuse, coping with it by refusing to call it what it is, she slowly opens up to child psychologist Gail (Viola Davis). A trusting bond is formed between the two, as well as with the FBI agent doing all he can to track Glen down, but her father is losing control.
Guilt, anger, embarrassment, and malice cloud Will’s judgment as he ignores his daughter’s silent pleas, instead throwing everything into revenge. Owen is almost as good as Liberato in portraying the kind of devastating psychological manhandling a rape can instill, his job at a marketing agency, responsible for the sexualization of America’s tween demographic, making him feel even worse. But along with this family working through the tragedy—crying, yelling, quietly contemplating—Schwimmer also gives us a look into the complication of public perception. Here is a young girl, raped by a man still on the loose, but when Will tells his co-worker, played by Noah Emmerich, the response is “Oh, so she wasn’t attacked. It could have been a lot worse”. That is the mindset so many people find themselves in, assuming the girl had it coming to her; she was a willing participant. It is a sad state of affairs to recognize this ignorance to a youth’s inability in fending off the wiles of a sexual predator, showering her with affection to make the abuse easier for the abuser, but no less despicable to the victim. Schwimmer is bravely shedding the skin of Ross Gellar and delving into subject matter with teeth. Trust is a story worth telling and experiencing, if only to help prevent it from happening to you.
Trust 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½
courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival