David Schwimmer’s ‘Trust’: A Garden-Variety Family-in-Crisis Film

The former “Friends” star understands acting and actors and knows how to get the most from them. What he doesn’t seem to understand is filmmaking

A member of the Board of Directors of the Rape Foundation in Santa Monica, David Schwimmer kept his eyes and ears open to the testimony of the many victims that pass through its doors. 

Through that experience came “Trust,” a well-meaning drama about a family in crisis after their daughter is seduced by an internet predator. 

Annie Cameron is a pleasant, middle-class kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. Her father, Will, is a successful adman and a devoted family man. Her mother, Lynn, is a homemaker. 

Annie is befriended by fellow volleyball enthusiast, Charlie, on the internet.

The two begin a relationship based on mutual interests that soon blossoms into romance. What follows is a crisis that sets the Cameron family in a tailspin and initiates a nationwide manhunt by the FBI. 

As young Annie Cameron, 16-year-old Liana Liberato delivers a breakout performance, continuing the recent wave of outstanding young actors such as Dakota Fanning and more recently Hailee Steinfeld. 

In “Trust,” she dominates every frame, taking on adult subject matter, partial nudity and emotionally harrowing scenes opposite veterans like Clive Owen and Catherine Keener.  The movie lives and dies by her performance and this young ingénue solidly anchors a gifted ensemble. 

The real-life father of two girls, Owen is utterly convincing as a man who blames himself for not doing enough to protect his family. Keener agilely plays the wife who tries to make him understand it’s not about him when his daughter is the victim.

All of this is to say that director David Schwimmer understands acting and actors and knows how to get the most from them. What he doesn’t seem to understand is filmmaking. He seldom uses the camera to tell the story, deploying it instead to cover the action without ever interpreting it. 

Tarantino veteran Andrzej Sekula delivers poorly composed and under-lit interiors while Douglas Crise’s editing provides faltering rhythm and lethargic interludes. 

Neither is helped by neophyte Andy Bellin’s screenplay, which puts the audience three steps ahead of the movie in the first five minutes. If you haven’t guessed by now that Charlie isn’t who he says he is, then try something a little easier, like “Blue’s Clues.” 

The meeting between Annie and Charlie is exceptionally taut and well-played but the rest of the movie is your garden-variety family-in-crisis film. There are long earnest talks between father and daughter, husband and wife, mother and daughter. Dad is distracted at work.  Daughter feels no one understands her and so on and so on.

“Trust” is meant to be a cautionary tale about kids and the internet. Certainly its intentions are well meaning, but Schwimmer’s movie never rises above the level of familiar TV fare.

** (out of four)