*** (out of four)
Shortly after turning 14, suburban Chicago freshman Annie (Liana Liberato) begins an online relationship with Charlie (Chris Henry Coffey), who gradually lets on that he’s not a teenager but really 20, no, 25, no, in his 30s. Their in-person meeting leads to a tragic incident that leaves Annie’s parents, Will (Clive Owen) and Lynn (Catherine Keener), wondering how to deal with the past and adjust for the future.
The buzz: That’s quite a departure from Northwestern graduate David Schwimmer’s (“Friends”) last directorial effort, the mediocre comedy “Run Fatboy Run.” “Trust,” one of the better movies at the 2010 Chicago International Film Festival, also cleverly avoids the monotony of characters typing away at the computer by having Annie and Charlie’s instant messages literally pop up on the screen.
The verdict: Once the FBI (Jason Clarke of “The Chicago Code”) gets involved, “Trust” threatens to go from character study to case study and become “To Catch a Predator: Chicago Edition.” The focus on Will’s broadly demonstrated guilt and lust for revenge also almost loses track of Annie’s emotional fallout, if not for the fantastically expressive performance from Liberato. Of the many scary elements of “Trust” is that Annie’s not a reckless kid from a broken home; she’s an average, vulnerable teenager who feels pressure to grow up and would rather share with an electronic confidant than expose secrets to her loving, if less than diligent, parents. “Trust” neither sugar-coats the situation nor makes it feel specific enough to avoid coming off as a general cautionary tale, but it’s certain to prompt necessary conversation among families.
Did you know? Apparently in online lingo PWOMS means, “Parents watching over my shoulder.” I feel old.
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