Sword Of Trust

by Derek Deskins

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday July 12, 2019

'Sword Of Trust'
'Sword Of Trust'  

In the opening five minutes of "Sword of Trust," the film's whole basis is laid out. Opening on the film's co-writer, Mike O'Brien, as a YouTube conspiracy theorist spouting the need for society to "think outside of the box" and "live our lives as free thinkers" before launching into the specifics of "hollow Earth theory," to the bemused excitement of Jon Bass' slacker weirdo Nathaniel. All this goes on, as Marc Maron's Mel has to tell a guy that his pawn shop isn't "Antiques Roadshow," and, despite what he thinks, his goods aren't special. It's beautifully succinct, and as the film moves forward writer-director Lynn Shelton fleshes it out meticulously and with gentle humor.

After the passing of her grandfather, Cynthia returns to his home in order to hear the reading of the will. Accompanied by her wife, Mary, the two are expecting to be bequeathed the house. However, due to a reverse mortgage, nearly all of his belongings are gone or owned by the bank. Instead, Cynthia is presented with what her grandfather viewed as a very special gift: A sword. Although, it isn't really the sword, but the story attached. You see, this sword is supposed proof that the South won the Civil War.

Yes, it is ridiculous to think that there is a massive conspiracy to hide the truth that the Confederacy was the true victor of the Civil War. Writers O'Brien and Shelton are aware of that (as the film's opening makes abundantly clear). However, the duo seems to find joy in looking at the oddity, softly chuckling, and then nonchalantly mentioning "Yeah, but what if?" It puts "Sword of Trust" in an eminently interesting place, both confident of the truth and curious enough to hear the lunacy of the otherside. Within this purgatory of truth, the film finds plenty of space to spread out and just dwell in it.

Because "Sword of Trust" isn't at all concerned with hashing out the specifics of its central conspiracy. Instead, like many of Shelton's films, it wants to see how its largely reasonable characters deal with the more unreasonable. Which may be why Marc Maron shines so brightly. The acerbic comedian has made a career of probing into the lives of others, allowing his own experience to be sprinkled in like dashes of salt. So as the film's ostensible lead, he is able to fill this familiar role, in turn lending the film its heart. For this is a Lynn Shelton film, so while the laughs come frequently and land with the grace of a small bird, there is an undercurrent of poignancy that lends the proceedings a surprising weight.

But that intimacy doesn't extend to all of the film's characters. While Maron's Mel is afforded the most nuance, the remaining characters are far more cartoonish. Jillian Bell's Cynthia and Nass' Nathaniel are the biggest culprits. While the actors acquit themselves well to Shelton's style and do all that they can with the roles, the characters are written as dullards with the depth of a puddle. In a lesser movie it could be written off as a lazy movie being lazy, but when placed alongside Maron's impressively strong performance, it leaves the film feeling disjointed and somewhat incomplete.

Despite the film's lesser characters, "Sword of Trust" is largely a success. The cast acquits itself well to Shelton's improvisatory style and it is strung together tighter than some of her more mumblecore-strong previous entries. O'Brien and Shelton make their points concerning the world of conspiracy theorists, and its growing pervasiveness thanks to the internet, softly and concisely, allowing the film to explore the character interactions and Mel's psyche more deeply.

That's where "Sword of Trust" is at its best: Delving into the emotional fragility of Mel. Maron's performance as Mel is wonderful, delicate and dirty, and it elevates the film in every way, feeling like something only Maron could deliver. In its ridiculous premise, "Sword of Trust" draws you in and then floors you with its surprising depth and subtle witty humor.



Mel :: Marc Maron
Nathaniel :: Jon Bass
Mary :: Michaela Watkins
Cynthia :: Jillian Bell
Hog Jaws :: Toby Huss
Kingpin :: Dan Bakkedahl
Zeke :: Timothy Paul
Jake :: Whitmer Thomas
Deirdre :: Lynn Shelton
Jimmy :: Al Elliott


Director :: Lynn Shelton
Screenwriter :: Lynn Shelton
Producer :: Ted Speaker
Producer :: Lynn Shelton
Executive Producer :: Peter Gilbert
Executive Producer :: Edwin Linker
Executive Producer :: Joe Swanberg
Cinematographer :: Jason Oldak