Quintessential Quirk – TRUST
TRUST is a deliciously deadpan meditation on the oddity of love.
Like a John Hughes film from some parallel dimension, Hal Hartley’s TRUST (1990) is just a little bit “off” all over the place – which is a very good thing. Populated by fantastic characters (including a young Edie Falco), restrained acting, dry surreal dialogue and moments of transcendent strangeness, it’s a coming of age film about an overly idealistic electronic repairman (Martin Donovan) who escapes the cruel clutches of his overbearing father and meets a precocious pregnant high school student (Adrienne Shelley) who has just inadvertently killed her own father. Overflowing with dysfunction, lonely souls stray through Hartley’s narrative, as distanced from their own desires as they are from one another. Characters exhibit tenderness one minute only to reveal shocking ulterior motives the next, every one of them carrying profound emotional baggage – much of it on their sleeves. In the case of our protagonist this baggage comes in the especially volatile form of a hand-grenade which he carries around with him, brought back from the war by his father. It’s not only a symbol of his pent-up rage but also of the paradox at the heart of the film – the need to carry on our parents’ legacy and the ultimate futility of doing so. There’s an anthropological quality to Hartley’s direction, as he watches things from a distance, framing characters in the background and fading out on dialogue as it gets emotional – it’s as if we’ve been dropped on a weird alien planet to watch these creatures needlessly complicate their lives without having the capacity to understand them. It’s hard to watch TRUST without lamenting the tragedy of Adrienne Shelley – who went on to become a fantastic director (Waitress) before falling victim to a grisly, senseless murder. She carries the film, her strong self-awareness serving in stark contrast to her smallness just as Martin Donovan’s physical largeness contrasts with his intense fragility. In Shelley we the perfect embodiment of the lovable pixie chanteuse archetype – later embodied by Ellen Paige in Juno and Scarlett Johansson in Ghost World – but with the effortless charisma of an old-world star, harking back to The Apartment‘s Shirley MaClaine or Breakfast at Tiffany‘s Audrey Hepburn. Hers is the kind of talent that will be sorely missed, and which must be seen- and TRUST is your opportunity to do just that.