Sibling Reveries


In this age of hyphenates, the traditional writer (hyphen) director (hyphen) editor (hyphen) actor is more likely to identify simply as a "content creator." That's the way with Jennifer Levinson, whose content has amassed over 300 million views on BuzzFeed Video, VR Scout, and CryptTV. Trust is her first film.

Yet despite Ms. Levinson's Gen Z credentials, Trust is a surprisingly traditional film.

Three siblings assemble on the occasion of the suicide of their mother, an attorney who had gone quietly crazy. Dutiful sister Kate drives in from college full of resentment toward their estranged, cheating father. Flamboyant sister Trini, fresh off a bout of partying, arrives from who knows where with her latest temporary flame. Responsible son Josh, who lives at home and works at his mother's law firm, makes it his mission to keep the lid on the proceedings. Emotional wreckage ensues.

Trust opens at their stately suburban home, packed with mourning family and friends. They are a quirky bunch, mixing grief with eccentricity. Then to the funeral made bittersweet because, against Kate's knowledge and/or wishes, their mother has been cremated. Then, it's off to the lawyer to divvy up the estate. The word "trust" has a double meaning, referring to the sibs' precarious faith in each other and the trust fund to which they are entitled upon their mother's death.

Ms. Levinson's script is smart and solidly constructed, setting up tossed-off situational cues that become laugh or gasp lines later. Her dialogue is witty. Characters are introduced memorably in accordance with their personalities, and scene transitions are fluid. Director Almog Avidan Antonir handles the ensemble well, with an eye for small, telling gestures and reactions. Sten Olson provides crisp cinematography.

Trust is sad and hilarious, a tough combination to pull off. Some scenes stand out: Trini loudly crashes the funeral, Kate eyes the urn, and she wonders aloud if her mother's teeth are in there. "What about the screw?" she asks Josh, "When she tore her ACL?" Later at the house, born-again Trini leads a prayer praising "our dearest lord savior Jesus," prompting Kate to announce, "My mom is Jewish!" Smarmy Dad comes out of the woodwork to appear at the reading of the will. Kate's poignant choice of venue to read her mother's eulogy is well-staged.

Trust's characters have unexpected depth. They defy their initial stereotypes, show different facets, and earn our sympathy. Each of them gets good bits and opportunities to shine. Beleaguered Josh (Heston Horwin) holds it together until he doesn't, about the time when the wheels come off his mother's legacy. Trini (Kate Spare) pretends unity while suppressing an aching vulnerability and daddy issues (asked by Kate why she's sucking up to their father, Trini replies, "Because it's just what I have to do.”) Dad Damien (Linden Ashby) is a dashing philanderer who at crucial moments persuasively insists on his children's respect. Mr. Ashby (from TV's Teen Wolf ) and Wayne Wilderson (from HBO's Veep) as Travis, the family lawyer, are the most recognizable faces in this young and promising cast. (Drugstore Cowboy fans: see if you can spot Max Perlich.)

Kate is the heart of the film, facing an array of emotions while hindered by the drinking problem she hides. We are constantly drawn to her; she has some of the best business in the movie. Jennifer Levinson plays this pivotal role herself.

Joe Santos's score propels the action, but some needle drops are superfluous, like the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't it Be Nice" to underscore Dad's arrival. Wouldn't what be nice? It's just a way to use the opening drum beat to comic effect.

However, as entertaining as Trust is, it doesn't expand much on its opening conceit. Characters remain pretty much as they are introduced. If a "protagonist" is defined by the self-knowledge they achieve—how they change by way of the story—then no one here quite lives up to that title. Despite all the tumult, nobody seems to learn anything. They remain true to form.

Speaking of needle drops: Kate escapes to the tune of Etta James' version of "At Last." Really? Trust me, Kate will be back. This family saga is destined to go on and on.


Trust. Written by Jennifer Levinson. Directed by Almog Avidan Antonir. From Menemsha Films. 2022. On digital platforms. 99 minutes.


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