Synopsis – 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.
My Take – Unlike its title, their is literally nothing ‘trashy’ about this film. Sure their are a lot of garbage piles and generic black plastic bags in the film. But other than that, their are many more things to look out for in this awesome film, namely the superb editing and the wonderful cinematography by Adriano Goldman. From the mountains of trash piles to the grimy stilt houses, Goldman did a great job of capturing the decrepit beauty of these common wastelands. Seen through the camera inserts, the boys’ frank statements better developed their characters, reflected the character’s multi-perspectives and doubled as a plot device later on in the film. I was not expecting much of this film. You know why? In my experience with foreign directors portraying the reality of Brazil, almost 90% of the times they get lost, they create false images, garnish the poverty, say a lot of common sense about Brazilian women, they try to show a ethnically amalgamated Brazil that has black people on top of the pyramid in the same number as white people (basically a society where racism doesn’t quite exist). This time, though, this foreign perception of Brazil’s uniqueness didn’t get lost in exoticism. The audience cannot possibly walk off thinking a black or a mulatto child have the same rights and privileges as a white kid, director Stephen Daldry has made sure of that. The story follows fourteen year old trash picker Raphael (Rickson Tev) and his chance discovery of a wallet belonging to José Angelo (Wagner Moura, who international audiences may recognize from Elite Squad). Together with friends Gador (Eduardo Luis) and Rato (Gabriel Weinstein), Raphael embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth behind the wallet, unwittingly becoming victims to corrupted politician Santos (Stepan Nercessian) and policeman Frederico (Selton Mello).
Helping them along their way are American born priest Father Juilliard (Martin Sheen) & his teacher daughter Olivia (Rooney Mara). The plot involving the key may seem similar to Daldry‘s previous film, Extremely Loud Incredibly Close (2011), which focuses on a kid trying to discover what the key opens across New York City, but in this case we discover it pretty early on in the film, but the discovery leads to more mystery and thrills. The three lead characters are much more charismatic and the film delivers several funny moments. It is an engaging thriller that gradually build the suspense, but unfortunately the ending is a bit far fetched and stretched out. Apart from Olivia other women appears on the screen for a few seconds (other women like the ones who work in the garbage dump, the corrupt politician’s wife, a cleaner at the politician house or the priest’s housekeeper), but these women do not generally have any meaningful dialogues. Adapted from Andy Mulligan‘s young adult fiction novel, the film has a story that seems almost like a fairy tale – it is only in the fiction land of literature that fourteen-year-old trash-pickers can succeed in exposing the corrupted ways of political figures without getting themselves killed. That being said, the film succeeds in translating this highly unlikely situation from on screen without making it seem too contrived. Ever since his feature film debut in 2000, Billy Elliot, Stephen Daldry‘s movies have either been nominated for Best Picture or for Best Director. He followed up the success of Billy Elliot with The Hours, The Reader, and Extremely Loud Incredibly Close. His latest film, which takes place in Brazil and is almost entirely in Portuguese, ends his Oscar nomination streak (although it was nominated for the BAFTA Awards), but it does borrow some common themes from most of his past works. The lead characters are children and the story has an upbeat message despite the subject matter. The screenplay was adapted by Richard Curtis from Andy Mulligan‘s 2010 novel and some may find some plot similarities between this film and Meirelles‘s City of God, although the film is much more upbeat and less raw. The only problem I had with the film was Raphael’s dogged pursuit for justice. When questioned about his actions, Raphael answered that he was doing so because “it is the right thing”. In spite of that, it was the money left behind by Jose, and not the book accounting for Santos’ corrupted dealings, that seemed to interest the boys. In this sense, the pursuit for justice seems more like an adventure for Raphael and his friends, rather than an act motivated by the decision to right a wrong. Then again, perhaps that was what made this film so charming. In a world filled with dark, cynical views, the boys are a representation of what hope, perseverance and friendship can bring about.
Luckily,the three lead characters played by children are extremely charismatic and despite not being professional actors they carry the movie. Although Tev, Luis and Weinstein can be rough around the edges with emotional scenes, their energy was infectious on screen. This is huge for young actors and I hope those boys get all the attention they deserve for now on. Rooney Mara (who brings some glamour a midst the rubbish of the slum) and Martin Sheen are merely supporting characters who seem to be mainly added to give the film a star presence. Wagner Moura is likable in a small role. Selton Mello as the emotionless manipulative corrupt cop is awesome! The film’s message is heavy handed as it is a social cry against political corruption and it is juxtaposed against these innocent children who feel like they are being crushed by the unfair system. The film is raw enough to convey that strong emotional message, & is presented in such a way that feels upbeat and entertaining nonetheless. There are also some very interesting and well filmed chase sequences that help build the overall suspense and thrills that the film delivers. There is a lot packed into this extremely well made film. There is violence here too and some scenes that should not be in a film that describes itself as a comedy. But that said this has a bit of everything. The young boys carry the story and the cinematography is rather special too especially making the flotsam and detritus floating on a polluted river seem almost beautiful. It is a bit overly sentimental but no where near as much as say ‘Slumdog Millionaire‘, and it is totally forgivable once taken in context. On the whole, ‘Trash’ is a film that should not be judged by its title, its definitely worth a watch for its beautiful visuals, awesome editing, good performances & a great story. Everyone must know that along with a 114 minutes run time, the film is mainly spoken in Portuguese with a fair amount of English spoken. Nevertheless for people looking for strong story line and a rollicking ride, this is completely recommended!
Rated – R
Run Time – 114 minutes