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Modern Life Is Rubbish

Universal Pictures

Trash (2015)

Depictions of child poverty in well-meaning screen entertainments are bound to end up fudging the heart of the matter, since catching even five percent of the true grinding horror would bring an audience to its knees. "Trash" can't really do anything about that, substituting instead a YA tone of earnest adolescent adventuring in a landscape of adult corruption and violence — ultimately the easier option.

Although Andy Mulligan's source novel described a slum of imprecise location, Stephen Daldry's film plants its flag in Rio de Janeiro, giving the greedy politicians and murderous cops an imminent Olympic bonanza as extra rationale for lining their own pockets and ignoring the kids rummaging through their garbage mountains. Three of those — Raphael (Rickson Tevez), Gardo (Eduardo Luis) and Rato (Gabriel Weinstein) — find evidence of high-level corruption in a discarded wallet somewhere in there, and the chase is on.

The three kids are all charismatic — especially Mr. Weinstein's Rato, whose future clearly involves bounding over the fences of any institution unwise enough to tell him to stay put — although in the hands of none other than Richard Curtis, the script's commitment to a worthy cause is really all it's got going for it. Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen crop up intermittently as an Anglophone chorus for exposition purposes; fine liberal placeholders both, and a screen pairing to conjure with. But having created a suspiciously ordure-free habitat, Messrs. Daldry and Curtis ultimately opt for a Hollywood ending and drift away from actual social comment — unless you count the enthusiasm with which the kids embrace the chance to tell their stories direct to camera, confirming the universal truth that no life can't be made more tolerable if you can get yourself onto "Real World: Favela."


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