Movie Review – Trash

How far would you go to do the right thing? Could you leave behind everything that you know to see justice served? These questions are the driving force behind Stephen Daldry’s latest movie Trash.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury

This uplifting tale of bravery and perseverance against the odds centres on Raphael (Rickson Tevez), Gardo (Eduardo Luis) and Rato (Gabriel Weinstein); three teenage boys who live amongst landfill in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of Brazil. For our trio of young heroes, trash is everything they know; they live in it, sleep in it, work in it and play it in, heck, they even eat, drink and bathe in the stuff.

One day, whilst sifting through the landfill, Raphael happens across a wallet that contains something dangerous; key information that the local police captain Frederico, played by Selton Mello, would do anything to keep under wraps. With Gardo and Rato by his side, Raphael soon finds himself as an unlikely whistle-blower in a city rife with corruption and police brutality.

Whilst I enjoyed Trash, I found the film took a while to really get interesting. The third act, where all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, is easily the strongest. Bits and pieces work here and there, but it isn’t until the final confrontation with Frederico that everything comes together.

Daldry’s snappy direction, and Richard Curtis’ intricate screenplay work in unison to craft a thick curtain of tension and nail-biting drama. The action set pieces and chases also contain some really great choreography and movement; it’s quick, exciting and breathless as Raphael and his friends are doggedly pursued through the tight winding streets of Rio.

It’s just a shame that the movie takes its sweet time in getting to this point. The bulk of the film sees the threesome journeying from place to place, piecing together clues like a below-the-line Mystery Inc. For example, the initial wallet they discover contains a key that opens a locker wherein lays a letter that leads them to somewhere else, and so on and so forth. I felt like a lot of these steps could have been pegged back. That’s not to say the film is hard to follow, just treading water when it could have been cutting to the chase.

The stakes may not seem that great, but for Raphael, it’s his whole world; literally everything he knows, however inconsequential it may seem to us, is thrown into jeopardy by the secret he’s uncovered, and that’s what makes Trash so compelling. It’s close, personal and affecting for all of them. Plus, the three central characters all share a really infectious sense of camaraderie and solidarity in the face of hardship, almost to the point of becoming overly sugary.

Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen are the two big name stars in Trash; Mara plays an English teacher to Raphael and his friends, whilst Sheen is their local priest and Good Samaritan. Both deliver great performances that flesh out the world around Raphael. One scene where Sheen confronts the local police was particularly resonant and exemplified the sense of injustice and hopelessness the characters felt.

Trash exemplifies how Daldry has a fantastic eye for crafting striking imagery, whether it’s the sight of a shantytown set ablaze or a Brazilian firecracker fiesta, Trash is a movie that feels rich and authentic. It might stray a little too far into sentimentality at times, but Trash doesn’t fail to excite in the end. A solid cast and some compelling direction offset any messy plotting. Three stars.

Trash is available in Australian cinemas as of Thursday April 30

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures

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