"Trust" is a brutal story about a 14-year-old girl raped by a middle-aged Internet predator. It was directed by David Schwimmer. When I saw the name of the director, I said to myself: "There must be two David Schwimmers."
No. This is that David Schwimmer: Ross from the wildly popular TV sitcom "Friends." He turned himself into a film director, which is news in and of itself, but he also chose the most challenging subject matter imaginable on which to build his directorial reputation. This demonstrates a very impressive level of guts. I am also happy to report that Schwimmer delivers, immediately setting himself apart as one of the most talented directors in Hollywood.
Schwimmer's breakthrough is reminiscent of what we've seen from Ben Affleck in the last few years. Like Schwimmer, Affleck was very famous but not taken seriously. Almost everyone with a brain surely snickered when they heard that Affleck wanted to direct a serious film. Lo and behold, his first film, "Gone Baby Gone," was a tremendous achievement (on my Top 10 list of 2007).
Cher also comes to mind. In interviews, she reported being in a movie theater in 1983 shortly before the opening of "Silkwood." A trailer for the movie came on. When her name appeared on screen, everyone in the theater laughed. A month or so later, no one was laughing when she received an Oscar nomination for her performance. Mark Wahlberg also comes to mind. He brilliantly succeeded in the 1990s at turning himself into someone other than Marky Mark. One could also go back to Marilyn Monroe's struggle to be taken seriously as an actress after she had become known as a blonde bombshell.
It's tough to live down a reputation as a pop celebrity. Not many have done it. Add David Schwimmer to the short list of those who've tried and succeeded.
"Trust" is no masterpiece, but it's a brave, purposeful work that explores humanity at its most despicable and magically leaves you in an ennobled place. It is not torture porn; in fact, there's not a gratuitous moment in the film. But it is unflinching. You don't see everything that happens to the girl, but you see -- and hear -- much of it. If you have difficulty looking at tragedy in the face, this is not the film for you.
"Trust" is not sensationalistic at all. It was produced out of grief and the yearning to heal. I don't know if Mr. Schwimmer has experienced anything as horrific as what is depicted in "Trust," but he's got an extraordinary empathy toward all the characters in the story, particularly the girl and her father.
An outstanding teenage actress named Liana Liberato, in only her second feature film, plays the main character, Annie, a very pretty but awkward, shy girl who falls in love with her Internet chat-buddy, who she initially thinks is a high-school boy.
Her parents are played by Catherine Keener and Clive Owen, who gives a heart-wrenching performance as a dad blaming himself for not protecting his daughter. The first half of the film is about the girl; the second half is about her father. The film finds new ways to explore how the families of rape victims are sometimes almost as torn apart by the experience as the victims themselves.
It also nicely examines the contours of this from a distinctively male point of view. Until this, I'd never really thought about what the father of a teenage rape victim must go through. I have Mr. Schwimmer to thank for helping me see this better -- and screenwriters Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger.
"Trust" is recommended for anyone who values serious drama and wants to combat one of the worst -- and most commonplace -- tragedies of our time. We owe it to our kids to see this film.