“Do you trust me?” “If you trust me first.”

Apparently, Hal Hartley is another of those early independent directors that I really should know more about. His first two films both made the list, and it is only thanks to random chance that I ended up watching the second before I did the first, but if this is any indication of his prior (and even later) work, I think I may finally have found an independent director, one that helped shape the burgeoning genre of independent cinema, that I actually really like. Trust, like so many other films I’ve reviewed from the list so far, is pretty much what it says on the tin; an exploration of a situation or relationship that has to rely on trust in order to get by in a rough world. Now, while this is technically a dark comedy, and I did laugh a few times through the film, don’t get the wrong idea from all the quotes on the poster up there declaring this a “hilarious romp” and “wickedly funny” (not to mention “wacky”); this is a much more tender film than the label “comedy” would imply, and that is the real focus of the story, not how darkly comic it can try to be, which it really doesn’t.

This film is a great example of a film that exists in symbiotic relationship with its title. The film follows two people; Maria, a 17-year-old recent high school dropout who learns she is pregnant, and is disavowed by her family as a result when her father suffers a heart attack from the news, and Matthew, a somewhat aloof and bitter man in a hateful antagonistic relationship with the father he lives with. They meet each other, pretty much through fate or circumstance, and end up in a relationship; though, they both acknowledge, in a well-written scene, that it is not through love that they are together, but mutual respect and admiration. Trust. And really, that’s what the film is about; how these two people manage to live their lives together in trust of one another, in the face of the conflict that their respective families and jobs tries to interject in their lives. The script is very of the 90s; very pseudo-philosophical and self-referential. There’s a lot of instances where normal conversation is bypassed for meta content; where numerous occasions of dialogue such as, “What do you want?” “I don’t want anything,” or, “What do you mean?” “You know what I mean,” are ever-present. I realize and can understand why some would find this style of scriptwriting infuriating; it’s essentially trying to be smarter than it really is by dancing around a normal conversation instead of just having the characters talk like regular people. Me, however, I found it very enlightening, and a bit of a breath of fresh air from all the heavy-handedness I’ve been dealing with from films as of late, though I am fully ready to acknowledge that it may be just because I’m a child of the 90s. The acting from all involved is subdued, but genuine, and the respective mother and father of the main duo are particularly exceptional; Maria’s mother, played by Merritt Nelson, has a heck of a character arc and a lot to deal with after the film sets her up, and she handles it damn near perfectly, if, like Matthew points out, she can get to be a bit sadistic.

I liked this a great deal. It was just sardonic enough to appeal to the cynical side of me, but it didn’t fully go that route; it cared about its characters too much, and I think that was the right decision. Now, I should mention again, there are plenty of people who will watch five minutes of these characters talking and immediately turn the film off out of revulsion, but for once, I’m going to go the selfish route and give the film the rating that most reflects what I thought of it, and not what I think it will probably end up getting from a general populace. I thought this was a well-done film all around, so much so that, as I implied in the opener, not only am I looking forward to his previous film on the list, I may get around sometime to checking out some of his later work. If the Book’s passage is any indication, Hartley is a director who “improves as he proceeds”, and if that’s the case, I think I’ll find a lot to like about this man’s oeuvre.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10


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