Trash Fire follows a couple, Owen (Adrian Grenier) and Isabel (Angela Trimbur), deep in the throes of relationship troubles beset with continual bitterness. After enough provocation revolving around their partnership’s future, Isabel convinces Owen to make amends with his estranged relatives, who he hasn’t seen in years after a tragic fire took the lives of his parents and severely burned his sister (AnnaLynne McCord), who lives with their grandmother Violet (Fionnula Flanagan). Upon arrival, a battle of generational wills emerges between these four primary characters, not to mention a great number of secrets and lies, as the narrative gradually builds towards an explosive and deadly denouement.
What really helps Trash Fire is the twisted, dark humor that writer/director Richard Bates Jr. employs throughout, especially in the film’s first act where we get to experience Owen’s character firsthand and how sour his personality can really be. This tone gradually shifts into disturbing, consequential territory, with a second half featuring more shocking moments and line deliveries than hilarity (though there is still some), but thankfully no impact is lost in the process. Each of the primary actors does their job well, especially AnnaLynne McCord (working with Bates Jr. again) who is forced to convey her character without the aid of facial cues for most of her screentime.
The film loses some points for an ending that comes seemingly out of nowhere and feels premature, not giving a proper conclusion to each of the characters and instead, appearing as a testament to the seeming banality of existence itself. While it could be excused as a twist ending by some, everything beforehand feels deserving of a better finale, though given that Trash Fire is meant to be a personal film for Bates Jr., perhaps it is better that it avoids convention, given how wildly disturbing it results in being.