Superbly edited by Elliot Graham, the opening 15 minutes sets up the narrative with deft efficiency. We are first introduced to Jose Angelo (Wagner Moura), a white-collar guy who is apprehended by cops just after he manages to lob a wallet into a passing garbage truck. When said wallet is discovered by 14 year-old forager Raphael (Rickson Teves), he realizes that it contains more than just money when a corrupt police officer (Selton Mello) comes looking for it. From there it’s a matter of high stakes hide-and-seek as Raphael teams up with fellow favela dwellers Gardo (Eduardo Lewis) and Rato (Gabriel Weinstein) to try and put the pieces of a mayoral conspiracy together before the authorities.
It’s a compelling enough story propelled by twists, turns and energetic chase sequences. The numerous pursuits – often backed by a lively local track – are especially well-shot, effectively capturing the slums and nightlife of Rio.
As the film progresses though the situations our heroes find themselves in feel increasingly unlikely, with the forging of helpful allies and appearance of certain characters all coming at the perfect time. The ending too feels very Hollywood when the vast majority of the film is anything but, and it contributes to the film feeling longer than it needs to be.
The major source of Trash’s appeal are the spirited performances from the three newcomers. Teves, Lewis and Weinstein are all untrained actors, but the camaraderie between their characters radiates off screen. That Daldry’s shooting style allowed them to take more ownership of the story only makes it more authentic. As the adult allies of our young crusaders, Martin Sheen’s cynical priest fares far better than Rooney Mara’s aid worker. Sheen initially sticks out like a sore thumb, but thankfully his role gradually evolves into something substantial. Conversely, Mara is so underused that she’s almost completely jettisoned from the final act with little explanation.
Worth watching for the performances from its energetic central trio, Trash’s title is by no means a reflection of what the film actually is – a likeable, if overly sentimental romp.