Directed by Stephen Daldry
Starring Rooney Mara, Martin Sheen, Wagner Moura, Selton Mello, Rickson Tevez, Eduardo Luis and Gabriel Weinstein
In UK Cinemas January 30th, 2015

by Joanna Orland

Heavily influenced by Slumdog Millionaire and City of God, the director of Billy Elliot presents Trash – the story of three charismatic impoverished children who find themselves up against the corrupt Rio police force.  Written by Richard Curtis and then translated into Portugese, Trash has a uniqueness about it, firmly planting itself within Brazilian culture, but emanating a much more lightweight British positivity a la Billy Elliot / Slumdog Millionaire.

Raphael and Gardo live in an actual dump, with their friend Rato inhabiting nearby sewers.  Raphael stumbles upon a wallet that belonged to now deceased Jose Angelo, who had something that the corrupt police want, and now they’re after the three boys in order to get it.  The boys seek guidance from the local priest (Martin Sheen) and visiting English teacher (Rooney Mara) in their quest to become rich, but moreso to do the right thing.

Director Daldry invests everything this film has to offer in these three children, going as far as to let their personalities influence the story.  He carefully cast exactly the right young boys in these roles, all of whom had no previous acting experience, none of whom is even likely to have ever set foot in a cinema.  While the film is primarily interpreted as an action or drama to an English speaking audience, Daldry has stated that in Brazil, Trash is often regarded as a comedy, all due to the boys’ performances and use of language.  Mixing fast-paced adventures across Rio with more intimate addressing the camera scenes, the young characters are fully realized and immediately adored by the audience.  They are an infectious delight to watch on screen.

This is a solid and enjoyable film, held together by not just the charisma of the boys, but their refusal to give up when they realize they’re on the verge of discovering something so important, it is life-changing.  Their pursuit of doing the right thing not only instills faith in their local jaded priest, but also in an audience who are tired of watching the bleak output of regular Awards Season fare.

While the energy is high and acting charismatic, the harsh reality of life in the favelas of Rio is not merely glossed over.  The trash heaps, landfills, corruption and danger feels very real, and these boys are thrust right into the centre of it.  The film emanates a toxicity of corruption and classism, but somehow remains optimistic and life-affirming rather than being a serious social exploration.

Charm, charisma, humour and heart, Trash feels way too fresh to be throwaway.

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