Last year’s Catfish showed anyone can pretend to be anyone under cover of the internet.
Actor turned filmmaker David Schwimmer makes much the same point in Trust, a well-intentioned drama about a 14-year-old girl who’s groomed online and subsequently raped by an insinuating sexual predator.
With Clive Owen and Catherine Keener playing her horrified parents and Viola Davis as her sympathetic counsellor, Schwimmer’s Run Fat Boy Run follow-up doesn’t want for heavyweight talent.
And the Madagascar man handles the tricky material with commendable sensitivity, but is compromised by contrived plotting and a queasy prurience that may inadvertently appeal to the same sickos it wants to expose.
It suits writers Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger, for example, for poor exploited Annie (Liana Liberato) to be preposterously naïve, blithely swallowing her admirer’s claims to be no older than 25 without seeking visual confirmation via any of the numerous Skype-like options at her disposal.
When an arranged meeting at a shopping mall shows Charlie (Chris Henry Coffey) to be closer to 40, Annie is rightly appalled. But not enough not to follow him back to a seedy hotel room for an unsettling liaison that, though discreet, still reveals more than some may feel is necessary.
Trust is on stronger ground depicting her father’s impotent rage on discovering his little girl has been despoiled by a perv whose true nature she stubbornly refuses to acknowledge.
But it’s overly neat that he makes his living making ad campaigns based on titillating imagery, or that one twist hinges upon an FBI operative (Jason Clarke) being conveniently inept. Schwimmer undoubtedly deserves credit for taking on a difficult subject that would have had many of his peers running for the hills.
Yet at crucial points, Trust doesn’t ring true. If this was a Friends episode, it would be ‘The One That Doesn’t Quite Come Off’.
Owen and Keener give excellent performances, while newcomer Liberato is a significant find. Yet for all its power and understatement, Trust is only a few clicks away from sexploitation.