I’d like to think that when putting Trash together the people behind it weren’t sitting there purely trying to think what would be most likely to win them lots of Oscars, but it does slightly come across like that at times. You’ve got a setting that is Slumdog Millionaire meets City of God, a plot that’s somewhat gritty but also a bit of a fairytale, a director who’s already got three Best Director Oscar nominations under his belt (Stephen Daldry), a script from Richard ‘Four Weddings’ Curtis and the lead roles given to sweet, non-professional Brazilian kids.
If they were hoping for Oscars, they failed, but the movie isn’t bad at all, using its semi-fairytale story to create something that is sort of a family/young adult film, but one that wants viewers young and old to know that the slums can be a dark and dangerous place, and that children aren’t immune from that.
Raphael, Gardo, and Rato spend their lives picking through the rubbish thrown away by Rio’s wealthier citizens, in the hope of finding things they can live off of. When they come across a wallet they are thrown into a very dangerous situation, where the local authorities desperately want the wallet back in order to protect a hideously corrupt (but profitable) system, and so the boys set out to evade the police and discover what secrets it contains.
Trash mixes a plot that’s more of an action thriller than you might expect with a real interest in setting this in a (somewhat) realistic, poverty-stricken world. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work, particularly when you get the impression Hollywood-style fantasy has simply been dropped onto the favelas, but this does ensure it’ll be accessible to a wider audience. That’s not to say it shirks showing many of the realities of the slum-dwellers’ situation, particularly the everyday dangers of a system that has no respect for you and sees you as little more than an annoyance.
Ultimately though despite gritty aspects, this is a bit of a fairytale that wants to keep you entertained and ensure that by the end there’s a smile on your face and a sense of hope. Sure that may not reflect the truth for all of Rio’s poor, but it works here.
I would say this is a good one to get your kids to watch, as it shows them a world that is very different from the one they grew up in, but still manages to be quite exciting. However, it can get quite intense at times (hence the 15 certificate in the UK), so it’s probably better for older kids and teens than anyone really young.
Overall Verdict: There may be times when it’s difficult not to wonder whether possible awards were as important to the makers as creating a good film, but they still managed to created something that’s entertaining, sometimes exciting and invests enough in the Rio slums so that it doesn’t feel completely fake.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac