A joint venture between British and Brazillian film-makers, Trash, based on the novel by Andy Mulligan, is adapted for the big-screen with the help from Richard Curtis and Billy Elliott director, Stephen Daldry. Boasting a deceivingly up-beat poster, you’d be forgiven for thinking that as it was written by Curtis (part-translated into Portuguese by Felipe Brag), that Trash would be the kind of charming comedy that we’ve come to expect from the king of the British rom-com. In truth however, it actually couldn’t be further from what we’ve come to expect from the talent involved; a thriller that deals with social and political corruption in extremely poor and non-industrialised countries. Set in Rio De Janeiro, the story introduces us to three teenagers; Raphael, Gardo and Rato, who all work on a vast garbage dump, trawling through the waste in the search for useful waste. When Raphael comes across a wallet that contains money, he’s quick to claim it for himself, but when the police come around looking for the wallet, the three young men soon become embroiled in a political scandal which will put their lives at risk.
A metaphorical title, Trash is a story of revolution instigated by the poor, the throwaway people who have essentially become part of the landscape in which they work. Dealing with the very real issues of political oppression in under-developed countries and steeped in religious subtext, Trash deals with big ideas, but in a very black and white way. In this sense, the fact that the film is told from the point of view of three young adults is important for a number of reasons. On a purely filmic level, children being shot at or beaten increases the stakes considerably and injects a lot more tension into the drama, but perhaps more importantly, it reduces the politics and religious dogma to something rather quite simple and innocent. Through everything that goes on during the film, the message that shines through is that perhaps politics and governing countries shouldn’t be that difficult, provided the people in power just did the right thing. A somewhat childish and naive notion that doesn’t take into account the grey areas of the world in which we live in, but one I think inspirational, especially for the next generation of young people that this film portrays.
Curtis’ script is taut, immediately throwing us into the action. It’s layered with mystery as our three heroes must decipher and follow the clues left in the wallet, whilst constantly evading the police. I found myself surprised at how much tense the film was, with some scenes putting blockbusting set-pieces to shame. His script is a winning combination with the direction of Daldry, who brilliantly captures the heat, sweat, sound and colourful vibrancy of Rio De Janeiro, without ever overstating the location. At the centre of everything though, is the friendship between the three friends and therefore the performances are key. The young leads; Rickson Teves, Eduardo Luis and Gabriel Weinstein are all exceptional, especially considering, or perhaps because, this is their debut film performances. There’s a natural chemistry and an untouched, raw charm about them that only serves the believability and investment in the story. In terms of the grown up’s, it’s Wagner Moura and Selton Mello who steal the show as activist spy and political henchman respectively.
With extraordinary performances from the three young actors, a tense and exciting script from Richard Curtis, and confident direction from Stephen Daldry, Trash is a nice little surprise of a film, that is absolutely worth your time. It had me on the edge of my seat, charmed me through the relationship of the main characters and surprised me with its rich themes of childhood innocence vs. adult corruption. What’s most surprising though, is that despite its moments of darkness, it ultimately left me with a smile on my face due to the feel-good factor that the film builds towards. A cross between City Of God and Slumdog Millionaire, if you like both, or either of these films, then Trash is certainly for you.
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