The appalling and frightening scale of how much waste is produced worldwide, and how badly it’s managed and treated, is laid out with didactic clarity in “Trashed,” Brit writer-helmer Candida Brady’s earnest but rather televisual docu debut. Presented and narrated with warmth and welcome moments of humor by thesp Jeremy Irons (also exec producer), often seen wearing a hat that looks salvaged from a recycling bin, the pic delivers a judicious mix of human interest and useful statistics that will make it accessible to middle-class auds, especially at green-tinged fests and on upscale broadcasters.
There’s a landfill’s worth of pics on eco-subjects of this ilk, so it’s not clear what inspired the programmers at Cannes to screen this particular, relatively so-so example, apart from Irons’ onscreen presence. A shoot that clearly clocked air miles for all involved (hopefully offset by carbon-neutralizing donations), the pic takes Irons and the crew from a beach in Lebanon to Vietnam, Indonesia, the North Pacific Gyre, France, and San Francisco, with a stopoff in home-turf Blighty, a land less green and more unpleasant than it used to be, based on the evidence here.
Breaking the narration down into four parts — “Land,” “Air,” “Water” and “Solutions” — the pic explains the inadequacy of most landfill regulations, the inefficiency and dangers of incinerating garbage, and how all the stuff dumped in the ocean is turning our seas into a lumpy bisque of plastic waste and toxins. There’s something to make everyone feel guilty and sad here, from seals choked by shopping bags to saucer-eyed orphans with horrible deformities due to the aftereffects of Agent Orange.
Using cheesy-looking graphics to hammer home the bullet points, the statistics offer up some horrifying nuggets of information, like the fact that 87% of langoustines have filaments of plastic concentrated in their bodies, or that 13,000 liters of milk had to be thrown down the drain in one French town next to a toxic dump. Clearly cribbing stylistically from the playbook written by “An Inconvenient Truth,” the pic makes a strong case for the severity of the problem first and then offers some sensible solutions, such as more stringent penalties for failure to recycle, and ideas about how waste food can be composted effectively. At times, the filmmakers skate perilously close to doling out product-placement opportunities to companies they like, such as a San Francisco recycling center and a vineyard.
With his velvety baritone and appeal to femmes of a certain age, Irons makes an agreeable host, never more likable than when he shows a touch of annoyance at losing a stick in a field where he’s conducting tests, or when he apologizes for having thrown away so many cigarette butts himself in his time as a smoker. Editing suggests he wasn’t always there at every interview with the scientists and activists, but his commitment to the cause comes across as genuine.