Equal parts action and political activism, “Trash” is the empowering story of three 14-year-old trash-pickers living in the slums of Rio de Janeiro who manage to outwit their corrupt government. Adapted from Andy Mulligan’s 2010 novel by screenwriter Richard Curtis, “Trash” is the Brazilian counterpart to “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Directed by Stephen Daldry, the film is hard-hitting, action-packed but also family-friendly. Daldry expertly guides the three juvenile protagonists of the story through the development of the plot and achieves a film that brings a fairytale and harsh reality into one being. It’s similar to a Brothers Grimm story with a Disney rewrite.
The story opens with José Angelo (Wagner Moura) visiting the grave of his recently deceased daughter. Soon afterwards, José is unrightfully captured in a brutal police raid, but not before he manages to fling his wallet into the bed of a passing garbage truck headed toward a dump. One of the three teen trash-pickers, Rafael (Rickson Tévis), stumbles upon the wallet and proceeds to share its contents with Gardo (Eduardo Luís) and Ráto (Gabriel Weinstein). When the police come looking for this wallet, the boys embark on a race to exact justice for José, with government forces attempting to stop them any way they can.
A subplot starring Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara is laced into the adventure of the three boys. Depicting a troubled priest and his assistant, both aid the three youngsters in achieving their goal, but neither seems absolutely necessary to the narrative. With these two big-name actors as the American leads, their casting can be seen as strategic.
The film is entertaining and whimsical, but lying underneath is a strong message criticizing Brazilian politics. The film addresses government corruption and police brutality, which are two problems within the nation’s government. The story was also selectively shot in the poorer parts of Rio de Janeiro, including a makeshift dump and slum. Unlike other Hollywood films set in Rio de Janeiro, none of the usual glamorous locations can be seen, which forces audience members to acknowledge the magnitude of poverty in Brazil.
With twists and turns at every corner, “Trash” is an edge-of-your-seat feel-good movie that will leave audiences with a sense of hope.
“Trash” is currently playing in AMC Loews Kips Bay on 570 Second Ave.
Email Patrick Pauley at [email protected]