TRUST a film by HAL HARTLEY with Adrienne Shelly & Martin Donovan. 1990, USA & UK. 107 min. A deadpan love story between two misfits from the Long Island suburbs and an understated gem of American indie film.


Hal Hartley is one of the most idiosyncratic and original voices to have emerged from the American Independent scene of the 1990s. A master of deadpan romantic comedies, his films delight in paradoxes: existential yet sincere, unsentimental yet tender. Shooting on a shoestring budget, Hartley writes, directs, edits and composes music for his films, sometimes working under a pseudonym. His first three features take place in his hometown of Lindenhurst, Long Island. Trust is the central film within the acclaimed Long Island Trilogy.


The film centers on two loners struggling to find their place within the outer New York suburbs. Matthew (Martin Donovan) is a dangerously idealistic electronics wiz so fed up with his job that he puts his manager’s head in a vise. Maria (a luminous Adrienne Shelly) is a naive high school dropout who has just learned that she’s pregnant. Swinging between melodrama and absurdist satire, Hartley captures the fundamental humanity within his characters in understated, everyday moments.




“I try not to reach too far for subject matter. I try to make stories out of the stuff of the world I move through. And that includes the concerns of the day—what gets written about in newspapers, discussed on television, worried over by parents. What I do with these commonalities might be a little unusual, but I’m not interested in the exotic. I’ve wanted my films to provide evidence of my time and place—where ever that might be.” HAL HARTLEY


Hartley’s playful yet rigidly structured dialogue is delivered with expressionless cadence, a now unmistakable trademark. “I began to appreciate the beauty of strong, clean gestures—in dialogue, in physical activity, in shot composition and so on.” With a noted distaste for wide establishing shots, Hartley frames scenes with a unique geometry, placing just as much emphasis on onscreen action as the implied off-screen.


A native Long Islander, Hal Hartley started watching movies at his local 99-cent movie theater. He attended SUNY Purchase in the 1980s where he met a number of future collaborators including Michael Spiller, who shot most of his films though the next decade. Hartley’s early works launched the careers of stars Adrienne Shelly and Martin Donovan and he went on to collaborate with Isabelle Huppert, who plays an ex-nun-turned-erotica-writer in the black comedy Amateur (1994). His 1998 Henry Fool starring Parker Posey won Best Screenplay at Cannes. Posey also stars alongside Aubrey Plaza in Hartley’s last feature Ned Rifle, which completes his Henry Fool trilogy. He is currently working on a feature—funded via Kickstarter—about a filmmaker who decides to become a cemetery groundskeeper. You can explore Hartley’s films on his website, where you can also find the complete and restored Long Island Trilogy.