Review: SWORD OF TRUST Is A Funny Yet Heartfelt Minimalistic Comedy

sword of trust truck
Michaela Watkins as “Mary” and Jillian Bell as “Cynthia”, Jon Bass as “Nathaniel” and Marc Maron as “Mel” in Lynn Shelton’s SWORD OF TRUST. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

Sword of Trust, co-written and directed by Lynn Shelton (Outside In), is a new comedy film with just as much brain as it has wit. The movie is about a woman who inherits an artifact with a unique history from her recently deceased grandfather and the pawn shop owner who she recruits to help her sell it.

This film’s story is so ridiculous that it works extremely well. The focus is placed more firmly on the humor than the logistics of the story, but regardless, the arc of the sword at the center of the movie is unique and interesting. One would be hard pressed to find another film with a premise this wacky that works this well.

A large part of the reason why the movie works is the ensemble that was assembled for it. Marc Maron is as hilarious as ever in this film, giving a turn that will surely satisfy any of his fans. Jillian Bell is the movie’s other lead, and she is much more subdued than usual in her role. The supporting cast, including Michaela Watkins, Jon Bass, Dan Bakkedahl, and Toby Huss, is great too.

The film’s humor is relatively diverse. The quirky, deadpan humor is likely the most effective, but it is also the most likely to go over the heads of general audiences who see the movie. However, there is also plenty of situational comedy and witty dialogue to please those who aren’t as inclined to pick up on the subtleties of the film.

sword of trust group
Jon Bass as “Nathaniel, Marc Maron as “Mel”, Michaela Watkins as “Mary” and Jillian Bell as “Cynthia” in Lynn Shelton’s SWORD OF TRUST. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

The character development is surprisingly strong for a comedy movie with such a loose narrative. Three of the four main characters are extremely compelling, being developed in an organic way through the dialogue and the events of the film. The only character that isn’t super well-developed is the pawn shop owner’s employee, played by Jon Bass. He feels like a comedic sidekick, which is fine, but not as complex as the other characters.

The other characters have storylines that have some emotional heft. The protagonist, Cynthia, and her significant other, Mary, are developed mainly through their relationship and through Cynthia’s grief over her grandfather. The pawn shop owner, Mel, is the most nuanced of the characters, developed phenomenally in a single monologue he has during the second act.

On a technical level, the movie is relatively simple, with more importance placed on the dialogue and performances, but Shelton still uses the camera in an interesting way in a few scenes. For example, there is one prolonged scene in which the characters are in an enclosed space, and Shelton takes advantage of the close quarters to make us feel closer to the characters.

Sword of Trust is an extremely impressive indie comedy. Although some may not be as impressed by the film’s dialogue-and-character-driven nature, this movie was packed with laughs and heart.

Sword of Trust opens in theaters on July 12 and hits VOD on July 19.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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