Thoughts On: Trainspotting

With T2 Trainspotting debuting in cinemas this weekend, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the decade-defining original.

Narrative

On the surface, Trainspotting is a film about the heroin epidemic of the UK in the 1990s. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll see that the film is really about an addiction to everything: consumerism, sex and perhaps most importantly, friendship. But rather than portraying addiction in purely destructive light (Requiem for a Dream, Candy) its narrative presents both the good and the bad, making no allusion to its overall stance on the matter.

The script itself is gold, too, having spawned a litany of quotable lines and monologues too numerous to list here. All I’ll say is, choose life.

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Direction

Boyle presents Trainspotting in a way that perfectly reflects the script’s ambivalent stance on drug use. It’s relentlessly upbeat, a tonal constant reinforced by the use of a contemporaneous rock and dance soundtrack and some truly surreal and abstract scenes (toilet dive, anyone?). There’s also Renton’s indifferent voiceover, which adds a certain matteroffactness to the tragedies that unfold on screen.

Characters

The film’s soundtrack, humour, narrative, visuals are all great an’ all, but they’re nothing compared to its characters. Wonderfully penned by Irvin Welsh in his novel of the same name, Renton, Sick Boy, Begbie and Spud are some of the finest characters to ever be put on screen. They’re entertaining and amusing each in their own way, and if they’re not relatable (though it’s fair to say most of them are) we can all say that we at least know a Begbie or a Spud in our own lives. Without these characters, the film simply wouldn’t work.

In a few words…

A decade-defining film that captured the zeitgeist like no other.

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