Apparently, a quarter of all teenagers believe speaking to strangers in online chatrooms is harmless. But a new film about internet predators might make them think again.
Directed by former Friend David Schwimmer, Trust opens at the well-heeled Chicago home of Will and Lynn Cameron (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener), as their daughter Annie (Liana Liberato) celebrates her 14th birthday. This is one of those families where the kids want for nothing, to the extent that when the doting dad gives his girl a MacBook Pro, she flips it open with instant recognition and no pretence of surprise. In a jiffy, she's using her new toy to contact Charlie, her cyber-boyf from the volleyball chatroom.
The film's initial stages feel like a cheesy teen movie, as Annie's romance blossoms via inane texting and online chatting, the words appearing on screen. But Schwimmer is toying with us. The suggestion that not all is well with Annie's fantasy romance starts when Charlie admits that he's lied about his age: he's not 16, but 20; then he's 25; by the time they meet, in a shopping mall, the handsome face he's sent her has developed crow's feet and a jowl. By then it's too late.
For any parents watching, what follows may feel like a horror film. Most striking is the nuance of the plotting, informed by the girl's misguided perception of what's happened, and the parents' initial misunderstanding. This raises the appalling question of what would be a parent's most helpful response in such circumstances, while also challenging the value of allowing kids carte blanche with computers and smartphones.
Schwimmer and writer Andy Bellin also observe the irony of Will's working life as a glossy-ad exec, whose semi-clad campaigns perpetuate sexual objectification. The film's weakness is in concentrating on the father's near-breakdown, as he struggles to compute his failure in protecting his child, at the expense of the mother-daughter relationship. But Owen is certainly persuasive. And just as it looks as if Schwimmer is going to succumb to a vigilante cop-out, he has another, bolder conclusion in mind. Ultimately, he trusts his audience.
Objectification is also a topic of The Princess of Montpensier, albeit of the kind where a daughter can be traded for some poultry and political goodwill. Adapted by the French veteran Bertrand Tavernier from the novel by Madame de La Fayette, this is one of those costume dramas that the French do well, at once vigorous and intelligent, authentically detailed but with a little irony in hand. It is never less than enthralling.
Set during the religious wars of the late 1500s, its focus is Marie de Mézières (Mélanie Thierry), a sweet and also spirited 16-year-old who can't help but over-excite the men around her: her own soldier-love, the Duke of Guise; the Prince of Montpensier, who she is forced to marry; and her teacher, the Count of Chabannes (the superb Lambert Wilson), who is old enough to know better. Meanwhile, the King's brother, the Duke of Anjou, takes time from slaughtering Protestants to stir the romantic pot further.
This is far removed from Tavernier's swashbuckler D'Artagnan's Daughter, its romantic intrigue amid war played out with slow-fuse tension. The families may treat Marie as merchandise, but Tavernier makes a complex heroine of her, while allowing each of her suitors his own measure of folly and grace. Around them the observation is top-notch, whether showing the humiliating ritual of a nobleman's wedding night, or the chaos of a muddy battlefield. A thunderous soundtrack lends an immediacy to the action that makes us feel these love-struck soldiers could be from any time, any place.
Film Socialisme (102 mins, PG)
Jean-Luc Godard's latest will be more divisive than usual: those who revel in the Frenchman's peculiar mixture of impenetrability and Grumpy Old Man dogma – cloaked in a spurious veneer of experimentation – will have a field day; those who think that some subtitles would be nice, will find it arrogant and excruciating. The first half takes place on a Mediterranean cruise liner, the second features a rather rum llama. Godard doesn't much like Europe; but we knew that.
Holy Rollers (89 mins, 15)
The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg stars as a young Hasidic jew from Brooklyn, who turns his back on Rabbi training to become an international drug dealer. Based on actual events in the Nineties, this works well when charting the frustrations that lead the boy to swap orthodoxy for ecstasy, instructed for his first drug run to "Relax. Mind your business. And act Jewish." Once he decides that he wants out, however, the story becomes rote.
Super (96 mins, 18)
You don't have to have super senses to be able to detect the déjà-vu in this dark superhero spoof, about a social outcast who becomes a DIY superhero, nay vigilante, only to find that the underworld plays with real weapons. It's Kick-Ass, only in shabbier tights.