Clive Owen and Catherine Keener star in "Trust." (Millennium Entertainment )
Actor David Schwimmer's second feature-directing outing, "Trust," shows clear commitment to its vital and sensitive subject matter. Unfortunately, this well-acted cautionary tale is hampered by a lack of visual finesse and a script (by Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger) in need of a narrative rethink and a dialogue polish.
In suburban Chicago, the seemingly idyllic Cameron family — ad exec dad Will (Clive Owen, excellent); Realtor mother Lynn (Catherine Keener); and three kids, including 14-year-old Annie (a fine Liana Liberato) — is shattered when Annie's chat room flirtation with a simpatico teenager leads her into a web of deceit and, eventually, a creepy, in-person sexual encounter.
But there's a twist: Annie falls for her online crush, who turns out to be a handsome 35-year-old (Chris Henry Coffey), and she takes the sweet-talking sicko's side against her distraught parents, her best friend, the FBI and careful therapist (Viola Davis).
This potentially intriguing turn is undercut, however, by gaps in logic and emotional clarity that end up distancing us from the victim we need to embrace. Matters are not helped by Will's ham-fisted vigilantism, an ill-defined dynamic between Will and Lynn, and an ending that, while beautifully performed, feels abrupt (glib coda aside).
Still, "Trust" serves as an important reminder of one of the Internet's most perilous downsides.