Director: Hal Hartley
Screenwriters: Hal Hartley

Institute History

  • 1991 Sundance Film Festival


With Trust Hal Hartley assesses the current status of the American nuclear family and proclaims its path is a downward spiral. As a basis for his evaluation, he uses the Coughlin and the Slaughters: two prosaic, broken-down, suburban families where the parents lead trivial lives driven by routine. Their offspring are the troubled beneficiaries of this defunct middle-class existence, unless they can embark on an alternative route.

Maria Coughlin is well on her way down the same road as her parents. Young and self-centered, she announces her life's plan to her parents while simultaneously demanding five dollars; she has dropped out of high school, is having a baby, and plans to marry her football-playing boyfriend. But her schedule is jarred off course when her boyfriend refuses to marry her and she inadvertently kills her father. Thrown out by her grief-stricken mother, Maria meets the misunderstood Matthew Slaughter, who has abandoned his meaningless job repairing computers. Merritt Nelson contributes the vital ingredient to the story as Jean Coughlin, Maria's harsh, hut sympathetic, mother who believes her daughter is potentially making the same mistake she made. She goes out of her way to derail any relationship between Maria and Matthew, hut this only drives them together, fist out of fear, but eventually because they desire the same thing, which may or may not be love. Whatever iris, they think they can find it in each other.

Trust is a dark film, hut maintains-a healthy spirit of satire. Hartley's direction is smart, and his dialogue is quotable. Against stylishly flat, pop backdrops, his characters exchange lightning-quick banter, delivered with a mechanical flair, which adds to the dry humor. Tight and compact, Trust delves deeper into the familiar territory explored in Hartley's earlier work, The Unbelievable Truth, shown at last year's Festival, with extraordinary efficiency and potency.

— Alberto Garcia

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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