Trash (2014)

Review #1,120

Director:  Stephen Daldry
Cast:  Rooney Mara, Martin Sheen, Wagner Moura
Plot:  Set in Brazil, three kids who make a discovery in a garbage dump soon find themselves running from the cops and trying to right a terrible wrong.

Genre:  Adventure / Crime / Drama
Awards:  -
Runtime:  114min
Rating:  PG13 for coarse language and some violence.

Some mistake this for a Hollywood movie that blatantly glamourizes poverty in Brazil, when in actual fact, it is a UK-Brazil co-production, financially backed by the country where it was shot.  Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen are the recognizable faces, but they only play supporting roles as a volunteer social worker and priest respectively. 

This is not a story about them, but of three boys who find a wallet in a massive garbage dump, only to find out that what they have discovered is of incredible political importance.  When the corrupt Brazilian authorities track them down aggressively, they resolve to unravel the truth and right a wrong.  Along the ride, we see a dazzling slice of Rio’s slums, and the poor who have to sell garbage to put food on the table.

There have been a number of flashy movies centering on the underprivileged who find hope in turning their fortunes around.  The most high-profile of such films was the Oscar-winning Danny Boyle picture, Slumdog Millionaire (2008), acclaimed but criticized for the very same reason that it put the poor in the spotlight, sensationalizing their exploits.

Trash can be accused of following the “Slumdog” route, but while it lasts, the film is for most parts enjoyable and exciting.  It works as a drama-thriller, a suspenseful cat-and-mouse chase across Rio de Janeiro, and it helps that the trio of young boys are captivating enough to get us interested in their predicament. 

But Trash is no City of God (2002), the critical hit from Fernando Meirelles that is perhaps the quintessential contemporary film about Brazil's slums, corruption and organized crime.  Director Stephen Daldry, whose last film was the mixed bag that was Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011), in some way goes out of his comfort zone to direct Trash, a change of pace and style from the normally serious, low-key dramas that he usually makes. 

His latest is straightforward, even predictable, but it is very well-edited.  There's energy and momentum in how the scenes are shot and cut.  Daldry also adds in documentary realism, inserting piece-to-camera shots of the trio of boys being interviewed by (what seems like) an anonymous person.  The overall result is decent – you won't be disappointed, neither will you be especially awed.

Verdict:  A well-edited and rather dazzling slice of Rio’s slums in this decent drama-thriller by Stephen Daldry.


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