Directed by Stephen Daldry
Starring Martin Sheen, Rooney Mara, Wagner Moura
The discovery of the wallet of a murdered man plunges three children who make a living picking through the trash of Rio into a world of corruption and political intrigue. It falls upon these powerless individuals to stand up to a crooked police and politicians in an attempt to avenge an injustice.
Set amongst the garbage dumps and slums of Rio, Trash is an adaptation of Andy Mulligan’s Young Adult novel. With a screenplay penned by Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and directed by Stephen Daldry (Billie Elliot) it certainly has a pedigree, but ends up far darker than would be expected from such a pairing. Daldry makes great use of the slums of Rio to produce a tense and insightful film.
Trash is certainly a crime thriller with children as the protagonists, rather than a children’s adventure. From the first judicial murder the stakes are set startlingly high and feel entirely genuine. What separates it from other Young Adult literature that has graced our screens of late is that the slum kids in Brazil do actually experience such terrible conditions, as well as the threat of death every day. As such the fate of Mockingjays or the Divergent pale by comparison to the genuine article (or at least an approximation of it). The tension built in this film is often close to unbearable, as these children face the consequences of poverty, corruption, petty graft and violence. It acts as a sobering reminder to the inequalities of this world.
Rickson Tevez, Eduardo Luis and Gaibreile Weinstein all bring a believability to the trio of friends (Raphael, Gardo, Rato) eking out an existence amongst the refuse. They have a verve and life to them, but can also handle the darker scenes or be convincing when running a con. The camaraderie amongst these friends is infectious and heart warming. Brazilian actor Selton Mello carries a genuine sense of menace as a corrupt cop that poses the banal face of evil. He is able to offer a bribe, threaten a witness, or black bag a child, all without breaking a sweat or changing his tone. It is made all the more terrifying that these are all the same to him, just part of the job and the way of the world.
Despite the top billing, Sheen, Mara and Moura are relegated to important but basically supporting roles. Both Sheen and Mara’s characters are fairly clichéd, but saved by the strength of performance. Sheen especially is just so darn charismatic that it is easy to forgive the stereotypical flawed, irascible but kind-hearted priest he is playing.
Tense, smart, topical and well thought out, Trash delivers an unexpected thriller with emotional depth.