Director: Stephen Daldry
Cast: Wagner Moura, Selton Mello, Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen
Running Time: 114 minutes
Release Date: January 30th
An English writer and an English director, telling the story of a group of poor, third-world slum kids coming into a very large amount of cash thanks to series of convoluted circumstances and putting their street smarts to good use… yes, Trash is after that Slumdog Millionaire money and critical acclaim. Whereas last time Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy put the best of their combined talents to come up with something vital and original, this time round we’ve got the director of Billy Elliott and the writer of Notting Hill falling back on their most annoyingly clichéd habits.
Set in the favelas and dumping grounds of Rio De Janerio, things kick off with two young friends – Raphael (Rickson Teves) and Gardo (Eduardo Luis) – finding an abandoned wallet containing some cash and a key. They enlist the help of Rato (Gabriel Weinstein), who knows what the key unlocks, and they’re off following clues to a mystery they don’t fully understand. Hot on their tale is Officer Gonz (Selton Mellow, who looks distractingly like an evil latino version of Adam Scott), under the orders of a corrupt politician, who doesn’t want the contents of what the key unlocks to make it into the public eye. There’s also Martin Sheen as a kindly local priest and Rooney Mara as a charitable English teacher, but they seem to only be here for the English speaking audiences to recognise someone on the poster.
Speaking of the poster, anyone who has seen it or the movie’s trailer will already know how the movie ends, not that the story is anything but formulaic from the beginning. Even as director Stephen Daldry doesn’t shy away from showing the kids on the receiving end of some truly punishing abuse, there’s never really any sense of permanent danger. We hear a lot about the corruption and villainy of the people in positions of power in Brazil, but it’s all very two-dimensional. Bad guys are bad, that’s it. Also, every grown-up except Sheen and Rooney (i.e. all the Brazilians) is not to be trusted, and while Daldry does find some beauty in the grottier sides of the city, it’s unlikely Brazil will be using the film to lure tourists in.
Richard Curtis injects some light humour here and there, and keeps the dialogue between the kids honest and realistic, but the mystery itself doesn’t make for much of an attention grabber. It’s all ‘Find A to solve B which will give you directions to C to solve D’ and so on until the plot is over, without much in the way of character developments or moments of reflection. The kids are mostly great in the leading roles, and Sheen and Mara bring solid support, but it’s all too forgettable. It’d be all too easy to say “Trash IS Trash!”, but it’s not exactly favela-ous film-making either. Instead it just feels recycled from other, better movies.