‘Do you like roller coasters?’ The grown-up asking that question has kidnapped a 14-year-old boy and put a sack over his head. Seconds later, he’s driving like a maniac with the kid in the boot, doing handbrake turns until his face looks more steak than boy. The man is a cop. The kid lives in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, earning pennies scavenging plastic bottles out of giant heaps of rubbish.
Which sounds very ‘City of God’, but ‘Trash’ is more ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ – infectiously loveable and heartfelt, with that same high-energy headrush of music and colours. A modern fairytale directed by Stephen Daldry in a mix of Portuguese and English, it’s the story of three slumkids who find a wallet in rubbish that holds the secret to a political scandal. If they can kill the big bad wolf (a corrupt millionaire running for mayor) they’ll all live happily-ever-after.
You won’t be able to resist the scrappy charm of its three teenage actors (Rickson Tevez, Gabriel Weinstein and Eduardo Luis). They’re gorgeous. Daldry is the man who discovered Jamie Bell for ‘Billy Elliot’ and he’s cast real Brazilian streetkids (by walking around favelas asking: ‘Who is the most popular kid in the area?’). Forget about three years at Rada – these boys are the real deal, stealing the show from Martin Sheen as a whiskey-drinking Catholic priest and Rooney Mara’s straight-out-of-college American volunteer.
The film is based on a Young Adult novel (which got dropped from a Blue Peter competition for violence and using the word ‘shit’), but it’s a straight-up adult’s film with a 15 certificate. Some people will hate ‘Trash’ for being not grittily real enough, but Daldry’s point – a hope-against-hope optimistic one – is that the energy of young people can change Brazil.