Directed by Stephen Daldry.
Starring Rooney Mara, Martin Sheen, Wagner Moura, Selton Mello, Rickson Tevez, Gabriel Weinstein, Stepan Nercaessian and Eduardo Luis.
Set in Brazil, three kids who make a discovery in a garbage dump soon find themselves running from the cops and trying to right a terrible wrong.
Trash is the new Brazilian/Hollywood hybrid from Billy Elliot (2000) director Stephen Daldry, and famed writer Richard Curtis (with translation by Felipe Braga). It is set in an unnamed country (Brazil), where a young boy called Raphael (Rickson Tevez) finds a wallet that sets off a chain of events that will change his and his friend’s lives forever. It’s a little less cheesy than it sounds.
Raphael and his two friends Gardo (Eduardo Luis) and Rato (Gabriel Weinstein), set off on an adventure when Raphael decides not to give the wallet to the corrupt police (who he is understandably suspicious of), and instead takes it upon himself to solve the case of the mysterious wallet; which actually sounds like a bad title for a Wallace and Gromit film, but is more intriguing than it sounds.
Trash, as you would expect, is shot in Portuguese, with only a small amount of English dialogue. This was probably to accommodate Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara. Sheen as Father Julliard does well considering his characters limitations, but both of them are surely only there to bring names in for worldwide audiences. For Brazilian audiences, they have Wagner Moura as Jose Angelo (the wallet owner), and Selton Mello as corrupt cop Frederico. Moura is well cast as Jose, but Mello’s villain is less than convincing, not helped by the wonky plot points later in the film and his confrontation with the teenagers doesn’t carry the weight it could have had.
The best part of the film is the three friends, who have a charming and funny relationship on screen. Made more impressive by the fact that this film is their debut, Daldry posits that it is most likely they have never even seen a film, yet they are so honest and true in their characters. Maybe their ignorance is key.
This brings it into comparison with films such as City Of God (2002), which is a much more gritty portrayal of that kind of life, although it is directly set in one of the more temperamental parts of Rio De Janeiro, which gives it gravitas. Even so, Trash seems quite lighthearted at certain points, in stark contrast to some of its bleak sections, so as a whole it has a confusing tone. Interestingly, the movie plays as a comedy in Brazil; because of the particular way the teenagers communicate.
Putting aside the tone of the film, it is definitely good-looking; the dynamics of Brazil are made for the camera, with so many great textures and colours; Daldry really does take advantage of this and his film is filled with some great camera shots; he directs the film well, and gives the teenagers space to do their thing. According to Daldry, the young actors were involved with the creative process during filming, discussing their characters and scripts, so the film would have a more authentic feel, aiming to counter the more British/American tone. It didn’t work totally, but there is a lot of charm in Trash that will be favourable to the audience.
The first hour is when the film really shines, quickly introducing the characters and sending them on an unknown journey. The video camera interviews with the teenagers dotted throughout are well used to keep the mystery. The film is better when it keeps everything ambiguous, but starts to fall apart the more the picture becomes clear. The reveals are not handled in the way the build up deserves, part of this is due to its score; it is way too obvious in its attempt to control the emotions of a scene, distracting from the actor’s performance.
In Daldry’s pursuit of a happy ending for it, the film feels a little rushed, and somewhat unbelievable, considering his initial desire for realism from the start of the film. Trash is a social justice film, a morality tale, and with that style comes certain peaks and troughs. It fails from trying to be too upbeat, but only from a thematic stand point; it is a very enjoyable film, with a solid, funny script from Richard Curtis.
What Trash is aiming for seems to be more along the lines of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008), a feel good, “against all odds” movie; while entertaining, comes across as straight out of a Hollywood text book. However, as said before, the three teenagers save it. Their togetherness, and great acting range throughout the film is a real success; continuing Daldry’s stellar work with young actors. Highly recommended for those three alone; they credit the film with sensitive and well-rounded performances.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★