Hopeful but sanitised slum drama from Stephen Daldry and Richard Curtis
It’s quite a gutsy move to name your film Trash but director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Richard Curtis clearly have confidence in this feel-good adventure set in the Brazilian favelas, which follows a trio of teenage boys as they team up to solve a mystery and 'do the right thing'.
It takes its lead from the gentler TV series City of Men, rather than Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s brutal City of God, offering an outsider's perspective (it's based on a novel by Andy Mulligan who taught English in Brazil) and apparently geared towards a younger audience.
Although Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen appear, thankfully, Daldry is aware that the strength of his film lies with the three kids at the centre of this yarn, who come up against police brutality and corrupt politicians. Untrained actors and residents of the real-life favelas, Rickson Tevez, Gabriel Weinstein and Eduardo Luis inject an irresistible energy into proceedings, as they scramble over one another on their characters’ eventful journey.
The location shooting works in the film's favour and Daldry effectively employs a straight-to-camera diary style, allowing the kids to fill in details, alongside fast-paced and entertaining action. However, an insistence on using brash, overbearing music to accompany many of the skirmishes diminishes the tension-levels significantly, and the simplistic and saccharine approach to the material niggles throughout. The lure of the drug trade is left to one side, and the overly optimistic ending is an aggravating finish to what is also an excessively long film (114min).
Trash possesses a hopeful nature, which is fine, but its decision to brush over dangerous situations with easy answers just doesn’t sit right. Justin Mitchell’s documentary Rio Breaks, about a couple of surfer kids from the slums determined to work their way up and out, is far more moving and honest.
General release from Fri 30 Jan.