‘Sword of Trust’ Offers Cutting Charm (FILM REVIEW)

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The concept of “trutherism”—the idea that there’s a secret truth behind any number of commonly held ideas that inherently debunks and disproves reality—has run rampant in today’s world, obscuring and shredding the notion of common consensus, the glue by which society best functions. It doesn’t matter if it’s politically, socially, or scientifically, there seems to be no shortage of small and vocal groups who obfuscate the issue by making specious claims about settled facts that ought not be even up for debate any longer.

It’s hard to know what to do with that. On the one hand, it’s seems simple and easy to mock flat earthers and anti-vaxxers for their spurious ideas. On the other, these isolated pockets of contrarians have somehow managed to effectively erode enough trust in enough areas that truth these days is whatever we want it to be. That’s a dangerous prospect, to be sure.

The concept of trutherism is explored in writer/director Lynn Shelton’s latest film, Sword of Trust. An imperfect film, it still manages to be an often hilariously charming look at navigating a world where truth is a malleable concept and where everyone seems to have their own agendas regarding what is and isn’t to be believed.

Comedian Marc Maron stars as pawn shop owner Mel, a guy who’s just trying to make a living and get by as best as he can in life. His world is rocked when a young couple, Mary and Cynthia (Michaela Watkins and Jillian Bell), come into his shop to try and sell a Civil War era sword left to Cynthia following the death of her grandfather. According to family lore, the sword proves that it was actually the Confederacy that won the Civil War. Dismissing them as crazy, he soon finds there is a market for these kinds of items and he and the couple concoct a scheme to try and land a hefty payday from Civil War truthers.

Shelton and Maron have a long working history that goes back to the comedian’s wonderful series, Maron. The two have an obvious working chemistry that translates well to the cinematic medium, and Maron truly shines as the cantankerous Mel. Really, he’s not that much different from Maron himself, and it’s not hard to imagine how the comedian was probably only a few life-choices removed from being in Mel’s position.

It seems pointless to say how great Maron is because, well, he’s always so great. As an actor, he’s recently been given the chance to shine in recent years, building off of his comedic persona in a way that makes perfect sense and allowing him the freedom to truly explore and build his characters. He does so wonderfully here, and proves that, if given the chance, he is more than capable of anchoring a film with a lot of heart and soul.

While the film does kind of sputter out in the final act, it’s never enough to detract from the amazing exploration of truth (and consequences) that Shelton has crafted here. The central idea is absurd at face value but doesn’t stray far from some of the ideas that have gained traction in this information age. She balances this absurd tale with a strikingly poignant examination of personal truth and what it means to the individual. Ultimately, it’s a film about celebrating personal uniqueness and having the courage to take control of your own fate which, yes, often involves having the audacity to trust. Sword of Trust is a clever little indie with charm to spare.

Sword of Trust is now available on VOD platforms.

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