Schwimmer's sophomore feature is an admirable and at times crushing exploration of stolen innocence.
Of all the directions David Schwimmer could have gone after Run Fatboy Run, few would have predicted this: the pitch-black story of a 14-year-old who’s groomed, manipulated and raped by a man she meets online. Schwimmer draws out raw, restrained performances from his cast and establishes a pervasive tone of dread, but allows his initially compact story to descend into melodrama by its third act.
It doesn’t take long for the initial girl-meets-boy-online plot to turn sour. Annie’s (Llana Liberato) infatuation with 'Charlie' (Chris Henry Coffey) turns to suspicion when he reveals he’s actually 20 and a college sophomore – later, 25 and a grad student. Nonetheless he’s charming and self-effacing and she agrees to meet, unbeknownst to her loving-yet-naïve parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener). In person, he’s the wrong side of 30, and despite her shock he persuades her to take a walk with him.
This sequence, set first in a vast mall and later a suffocating motel, is Trust’s masterstroke. Charlie’s emotional manipulation – "You made me think you were mature enough to handle this" – is deftly played by both Coffey and Liberato, who allows for some ambiguity in Annie’s reactions. Her discomfort is clear, but on some level she seems to enjoy the company of this handsome older man who calls her wise beyond her years. By the time the mood turns it’s too late for her to leave, and the haunting mid-assault angle adopted by Schwimmer's camera will linger with you for days.
Once all is revealed, however, the focus shifts jarringly from Annie to her father as he becomes gradually unhinged, desperate for justice. These scenes – through no fault of Owen’s, who gives a committed and occasionally devastating performance – are more conventional than what’s come before, the scriptwriters Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger stacking so many scenes of emotional breakdown on top of each other that it’s tough for any to retain their initial clout.
Nonetheless, there’s an impressive resistance to resort to moralising, and Schwimmer’s focus stays firmly on his moving portrait of a shattered family attempting to rebuild itself. A more disciplined script would have made for greater impact, but this is still an admirable and crushing exploration of stolen innocence.
Class cast, but the heavy-going premise and Schwimmer in the hot seat feels like an ill fit.
Not exactly the watchword given the subject matter, but throughout it’s never less than compelling.
Committed performances and a masterful first act bolster this structurally flawed handling of an impossibly tricky subject.