Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Stephen Daldry
Stars: Martin Sheen, Rooney Mara, Selton Mello, Wagner Moura, Rickson Tevez, Gabriel Weinstein, Eduardo Luis.
Set against the backdrop of the impoverished slums of Rio de Janeiro, where the street people and urchins daily scavenge through the local rubbish tip looking for detritus that will make their lives just a little more bearable, Trash serves up a strong mix of action, suspense, thrills and social commentary. It is also something of a coming of age tale about the loss of innocence in a world full of greed and corruption and violence.
Three such young scavengers are best friends Raphael (Rickson Tevez), Rato (Gabriel Weinstein) and Gardo (Eduardo Luis), teenaged Brazilian street urchins who daily fossick for small treasures at the local tip. One day they come across a wallet discarded amongst the rubbish. It contains some money, a train station locker key, a calendar with dates circled, and a series of photographs of a smiling young girl, with numbers written on the back. These seemingly innocent and innocuous objects though contain the key to finding evidence of massive corruption and a murderous conspiracy orchestrated by a powerful and ambitious politician.
It is only when a corrupt cop in the form of the menacing Frederico Gonz (Selton Mello) comes looking for the wallet that they boys realise they have stumbled across something more dangerous. Frederico is prepared to stop at nothing to recover the wallet and its contents. With no-one they can trust or turn to for help, the three boys will have to rely on their street smarts and natural survival instincts to uncover the massive conspiracy.
In the central roles, the three young newcomers have a winning and natural presence and deliver strong and unforced performances. They have a natural energy, boyish enthusiasm and cheeky demeanour. Tevez in particular carries the physical demands of the film with ease.
The three are ably supported by Martin Sheen, who brings a touch of gravitas and compassion to his performance as Father Juilliard, a dedicated by cynical American priest who is aware of the widespread corruption and poverty around him but is powerless to do much about it. It is a small but important role but his welcome presence will help sell this subtitled film to an international audience. Rooney Mara (from the US remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, etc) tries to bring something of interest to her underdeveloped role as his assistant Olivia, a volunteer social worker, who takes an interest in the welfare of the three boys. And Brazilian star Mello is a bit of a cliche as the vicious corrupt cop and he delivers a rather one-dimensional performance.
Based on the 2010 young adult novel written by Andy Mulligan, Trash is a boy’s own type of adventure yarn that comes across as something of a cross between the crowd pleasing underdog story of Slumdog Millionaire and the searing 2002 Brazilian drama City Of God. And Fernando Meirelles, the director of City Of God, is credited as one of the producers here, which accounts for its hard hitting and gritty content. There are some moments of violence here that make it unsuitable for younger audiences though.
Somewhat surprisingly Trash has been adapted for the screen by Richard Curtis, who is better known for his romantic comedies likes Four Weddings And A Funeral and Love Actually, etc, rather than gritty dramas such as this. There are some laughs to be found here, but basically this is serious stuff far removed from the lightweight fare for which Curtis has become synonymous.
Trash is a chase thriller of sorts, and marks a change of pace for veteran theatre director turned filmmaker Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, etc). Nonetheless Daldry maintains a fast pace throughout. He creates plenty of tension from this clash between those who have power and abuse it and those who are powerless, and he imbues the material with a suitably gritty edge.
Daldry and his production team have created a rather bleak vision of the rundown favelas (slums) and impoverished conditions of Rio De Janiero, and the film depicts the hardships of daily life in modern day Brazil. This is probably not a view of the city that the organisers of the upcoming Olympics or the World Cup would like the world to see. Cinematographer Adriano Goldman suffuses these grim locations with a harsh beauty that also lifts the material. His use of handheld cameras adds to the energy and immediacy of the action, and Elliot Graham’s sharp editing also adds to the energy.