A closeup portrait of three Barcelona women coming to terms with their circumstances.

A closeup portrait of three Barcelona women coming to terms with their circumstances, “Trash” feels much like any number of coarse slice-of-life items during its first hour, but careful groundwork pays off in the final reels, when the pic suddenly becomes enthrallingly intense. Tight editing and scripting, characters whose credibility outweighs their self-obsession, and a sharp eye for contempo themes are the hallmarks of an item which, though flawed, mostly succeeds in fulfilling its aim of telling it how it is. This “Trash” deserves fest pickups.

Title is the name of the band in which nihilistic David (feral Oscar Jaenada, more reined-in than usual) plays, but it’s also a reference to the way these people treat one another. David’s g.f., Clara (first-timer Judit Uriach, strong), has passed up the chance to work in London, so it’s even harder for her when she finds Oscar having sex with singer Alicia (Carla Nieto). This drives Clara, who’s also bothered by the unwanted attentions of nerdy Nacho (Francesc Ferrer), off the rails until the final frame.

Clara’s sis, Susana, is pregnant by her husband, Cristian (David Selvas), a businessman on the verge of signing a high-pressure deal in Romania; the present-day disjunction between emotional and working lives is one of several contempo themes running through pic.

Weakest of the three strands focuses on the women’s mother, Carme (vet Assumpta Serna), who has breast cancer. In the hospital, she strikes up a friendship with Llum (Nuria Prims). As their friendship deepens, “Trash” becomes part of the burgeoning subgenre of films in which middle-aged women discover happiness in homosexuality.

However, in the final half-hour, the movie suddenly becomes extraordinarily tense as Susana, on the verge of giving birth, finds herself alone and unable to contact either sister or her mother. The script’s central point — that families are no longer communities, but groups of individuals — is brought forcefully home.

On the downside, the sympathies of the script — co-written with Ramon Termens, with whom helmer Carles Torras co-directed his similarly punchy debut, “Youth?” (2005) — are unbalanced. Little effort is made to engage auds with the male characters, who are little more than sex-obsessed.

Handheld camerawork is in accord with the script’s warts-and-all visual philosophy. Use of natural lighting means colors occasionally fade almost to black-and-white. Music switches between the grungy rock played by Trash and stately classical — an interesting counterpoint.

Trash

Spain

Production

A Just Films release of a Just Films, Escandalo Films production, in association with TVC. (International sales: Just, Barcelona.) Produced by Joan Ginard, Sergi Casamijana, Aintza Serra. Directed by Carles Torras. Screenplay, Torras, Enric Pardo, Ramon Termens.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Arnau Valls; editor, Luis de la Madrid; music, Santos Martinez; art director, Elisabeth Diaz; sound (Dolby Digital), Jordi Rossinyol. Reviewed at Malaga Film Festival (competing), April 23, 2008. Running time: 91 MIN.

Cast

With: Judit Uriach, Oscar Jaenada, Marta Solaz, David Selvas, Francesc Ferrer, Carla Nieto, Assumpta Serna, Nuria Prims. (Catalan, Spanish dialogue)

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