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USA, 1990 (MIFF 1991)

Director: Hal Hartley

After The Unbelievable Truth became one of the sleeper hits of last year, director Hal Hartley is back with another biting, provocative comedy of suburban middle America. With Trust Hal Hartley assesses the current states of the American nuclear family and proclaims its path in a downward spiral. As a basis for his evaluation, he uses the Coughlins and the Slaughters, two prosaic, broken down, suburban families where the parents lead trivial lives driven by routine. Their off-spring 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-centred, 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 he 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, but 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, but this only drives them together, first out of fear, but eventually because they desire the same thing, which may or may not be love. Whatever it is, they think they can find it with each other.

Trust is a dark film, but maintains a healthy spirit of satire. Hartley's direction is smart, and his dialogue is quotable. Against stylish flat, pop backgrounds, his characters exchange lightning-quick banter, delivered with a matter-of-fact flair, which adds to the dry humor. Tight and compact, Trust delves deeper into the territory explored in Hartley's earlier work with extraordinary efficiency and potency.

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