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United Kingdom 2014
Directed by
Stephen Daldry
115 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
3 stars

Trash (2014)

Synopsis: In the slums of Rio de Janeiro, two boys – Raphael (Rickson Tevez) and Gardo (Eduardo Luis) – spend their days scrounging for discarded valuables in the slum’s rubbish heaps. When Raphael finds a wallet full of money he thinks it’s his lucky day. But when the police show up looking for it, the boys realise there’s something in the wallet more valuable than cash. Suspicious of José (Wagner Moura), the lead investigator, they enlist the help of ostracised boy, Rato (Gabriel Weinstein), who lives in the sewers and set about solving the mystery themselves, soon finding themselves caught up in a life-threatening story of government and police corruption.

When a thriller starts out as well as this film does you hope that it will sustain itself through to a satisfyingly plausible and nail-biting conclusion. Unfortunately this isn’t the case and Trash undermines all its good work with an implausible ending that takes the feel-good option rather than the harder, grittier possibilities that existed.  Perhaps this is to do with the fact that it’s adapted from Andy Mulligan’s young adult novel or that the adaptation is by Richard Curtis whose previous adaptation of War Horse also started out as a children’s book but is best known for his romantic comedies – Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually.  The warmth and sentimentality that worked as a positive in those films here dilutes the credibility of the threat to the three boys and to those around them. Whilst there are many moments of effective suspense these are more to do with good cinematography and editing and less to do with a belief that characters are really in peril. On more than one occasion the film allow itself to rely on the narrative equivalent of a ‘get out of jail free’ card to ‘save’ our heroes from situations that, in a tougher film, would see much darker consequences. And along the way it makes use of direct-to-camera video inserts of the boys relating the ‘truth’ of the story in an “ïf you’re watching this I’m most likely dead” style that seems clunky and superfluous.

But, despite these shortcomings, there is much to admire about Trash.  In his previous work, such as Billy Elliot and Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close, Stephen Daldry has well established his credentials for working with children in emotionally-charged stories. Here that experience pays off in spades with outstanding performances by the three young, untrained actors who drive the story. There are also solid supporting roles from veteran actor, Martin Sheen as a radical priest and Rooney Mara as a volunteer teacher. Most notable, though, in the adult roles, is Moura whose soft spoken, slow moving corrupt cop provides a genuine threat, even if the film doesn’t allow that threat to effectively follow through.

The story itself is engaging, if not entirely fresh, but what Curtis (with additional writing from Felipe Braga) gets right in the screenplay is the notion of eking out the clues and withholding information to keep our curiosity aroused.  It’s quite a long time before we start to really nut out what’s going on here, but the compelling, cheeky performances of the boys and the well-directed moments of tension and suspense serve to string us along until the backstory is revealed.

Trash is film of mixed fortunes, worth seeing for the performances alone, but falling short of its potential as an edge-of-the-seat thriller.




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