Trash, 2014, Brazil/UK

By Ryan Javier

Acclaimed director Stephen Daldry’s new film, shot on location in and around the city of Rio de Janeiro, is a harrowing and thrilling tale of adventure and intrigue.

A dissident has evidence that the current administration is corrupt and officials will stop at nothing get it back. Moments before government agents bust down his hotel room door, he throws a wallet containing the damaging information out the window and onto a garbage truck.

The wallet travels to a squalid favela (a slum) which in this case is built around an enormous garbage dump. Impoverished residents earn a living sifting through the mountains of trash in search of recyclable materials.

Two young boys discover the wallet, which at first glance, only contains money. The next day, government troops arrive, and force the residents to assist in the search for the wallet. The boys quickly realize that the wallet is special and discover clues hidden within. The mystery of the wallet’s owner along with the cryptic information within, spur the boys and their two friends on the adventure of a lifetime.

With corrupt officials and police trying to kill them at every turn, the boys must run for their lives, while attempting to unlock the wallets secrets and expose the amoral regime.

The film’s top billed stars include Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, 1979), as the alcoholic youth minister with the heart of gold and Rooney Mara (US version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2011) as his kinder gentler female counterpart. Both characters operate a Christian mission within the garbage slum and serve as surrogate parents for the boys. Both Sheen’s and Mara’s inclusion was all about marketing. Adding two widely known names to the poster helps makes this film, comprising mainly of unknown local Brazilians, widely identifiable and thus marketable to a broader audience. Normally a ploy such this would prove distracting, however in this case, as both are incredibly talented actors, Sheen and Mara only add to the film’s greatness.

Trash is without a doubt one of the best films that I have seen all year. The actors who played the boys were brilliant. Judging by their performances, it’s impossible to believe that they and the other cast members have little to no on-camera experience.

The film’s R-Rating is due largely to the setting. It’s difficult to accurately depict the harsh reality of Rio’s slums and stay within the PG-13 guidelines. I commend the filmmakers for a valiant attempt at finding a balance between reality and the watered-down-ness of the PG-13 standards. Being an “R film” may hinder the marketing a bit, but the trade off in realism is worth it. There is harsh language and strong violence, however the near-constant upbeat attitude and comedic stylings of the boys provides the perfect amount of brevity, which inadvertently tones down the violence.

Even with an R-Rating there’s enough adventure, comedy and heart that I found it incredibly easy to draw strong parallels between Trash and the children’s adventure films of the 1980’s. Trash does share common ground with Children of God, 2002, most notably young boys living in Rio’s slums, however the similarities end there. Trash’s theme and tone is closer to films such as The Goonies, 1984 and Super-8, 2011. Trash has that unmistakable Spielberg-esq quality and that’s what makes this film so endearing.

Although (as I’m writing this) there is no US release date scheduled, Trash will be available from Amazon’s UK site on BluRay/DVD on June 8, 2015.


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