If you are looking for a little
gem in the rough try Trust

Every so often a film comes a long that captivates me. I see a little bit of it late one night on cable and I am so impressed I have to look up the title and when it will next be shown. Trust is such a film. As with the best independent films there is a simple premise that is explored through the talents of the director, actors and writer.

Maria (Adrienne Shelly) opens the story with the simple line to her father, ‘Gimme five dollars’. She is a typical self-absorbed teenage girl that is sure the world owes her better than her parents could provide. She dropped out of high school and announces she is pregnant. Getting into an argument with her dad Maria slaps his face and exits. He promptly falls over dead of a heart attack. Maria goes to confront the football player that fathered her child and he gives her the brush off since his life is too important to waste on a pregnant teenaged dropout. Confused, Maria wanders around trying to decide if she should have an abortion and what will become of her life. Meanwhile, in another part of town, Matthew (Martin Donovan) quits his job fixing cheap TVs. Although very talented in such repairs he disdains the very concept of disposable, inferior items. He returns to the home he shares with his father only to face the draconian emotional abuse he father heaps upon him. Matthew has to clean and re-clean the same bathroom over and over, never coming close to pleasing his father. Soon, these two dysfunctional people meet in an abandoned warehouse and a bound forms between them. For the first time in each of his or her lives, someone else matters. At first they are just kindred spirits draw together because no one else wants their company. Slowly they open up to each other and as they do they are able to help each other become more centered. The transformation is echoed physically as Maria goes from the slutty party girl to a more mature, almost bookworm look., Matthew transforms from a jumpy man on the edge to a calmer more secure individual.

The casting is very good. Both Shelly and Donovan are favorites of mine rarely disappointing in their performances. Shelly carries a difficult role, a girl that we hate from the start that we have to start caring about if the movie is to work, This is vital to her portrayal or Maria. Shelly has to walk a fine line between being tough and vulnerable showing such vastly different aspects of Maria’s changing personality. With Donovan the challenge is very similar. Matthew is presented as a man whipped by life. His father is brutal to him. His employment is a nightmare and his personal life consists of a pile of books in his little room and a live grenade that his keeps in case he can muster the conviction to use it. After the two meet the change is shown as a very gradual one. No love at first sight, no grand passion but rather two people that drift together and somehow stick. Apart they are nothing but together they can make it. The chemistry between Shelly and Donovan is excellent which is the only reason this movie works in the manner that it does. Film trivia buffs should notice a younger Edie Falco (Peg) as the belabored wife Camela on the HBO series the Sopranos.

Trust was written and directed by Hal Hartley. As with his first major movie, The Unbelievable Truth, Hartley is fascinated by the myth of the suburban American dream. His use of lighting is a bit underplayed. There is an almost grainy feel imposed on the film that almost flattens out some of the film. The scenes are very well framed, espeically the ones where Maria and Matthew are learning to trust each other. The one scene where they discuss what is love and trust is incredibly well written, acted and directed. Hartley has not been the most successful young director or our time but he does rank as one that is willing to take a risk to tell a story. His use of the camera in Trust provides the feel of the ‘unblinking eye’, showing you more at times then you wanted to see but doing so in such a way that you continue to watch anyway. If you are looking for a little gem in the rough try Trust.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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