‘Trash’ Review: Unreal Brazil

brasilobserver - Mar 17 2015

(Leia em Português)

By Gabriela Lobianco

Trash reveals the political vision of a Britain in the Third World, its leaders and its poverty. The Brazil of Stephen Daldry, however, is unreal – even though the director has lived in the country for the past two years to adapt the eponymous Andy Mulligan’ novel for cinema.

The bestseller was based on the writer’s experiences of teaching English and theatre in four places: India, Philippines, Vietnam and Brazil. For logistical issues, Daldry and screenwriter Richard Curtis, in partnership with O2 producer, opted for the Brazilian scenario to narrate the saga of friends Rafael, Gardo and Rato on the big screen.

The story covers the adventures and misadventures of three boys from the favela who find a wallet at the dump in which they work, and become involved in a hunting treasure plot, with actions of a corrupt police and divine help in the form of a gringo priest.

As the director had his four previous films nominated to the Oscar (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), there were high hopes for the project in Brazil, spoken in Portuguese and with the presence of American actors Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara in the cast. But the plan backfired.

In Billy Elliot, the cameras capture with wit the awkward discomfort that Billy had with his father – nuisance inherent in the behaviour of the British and their culture. It is precisely this perspective of who is part and not of the audience that is missing in Trash.

Stephen Daldry hasn’t got cultural background to show a less stereotyped Brazil. It lacks conviction, with ease and intimacy, to portray the poverty of marginalized boys who want to be the hope of a better future as opposed to a country full of cops and corrupt politicians. Even Sheen’s competence as an actor is insufficient to interpret the priest, Juilliard – his efforts to speak Portuguese turns out to be mechanical and the feeling of indignation that the character requires is lost on the screen.

In the end, the mise-en-scène of the film comes down to a mixture of articles on emerging countries such as Slumdog Millionaire or City of God, by Fernando Meirelles. Despite the high budget, Trash was made for English to see – as people say in Brazil.