First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie. Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.
21 years ago, a little film called Trainspotting got released to the UK public. Based on the same novel by Irvine Welsh, the film shocked audience members everywhere for its brutal and honest portrayal of drug addiction, but also how culturally relevant it was of that time, taking on topics such as class status, youth culture, and poverty. The first time I watched it it felt like a punch to the gut. The kinetic direction by Danny Boyle with a soundtrack for the ages lives on in your memory, rightfully placing it as one of the greatest movies of the 90s. Decades later, T2 has arrived, returning Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) back on our screens.
After the events of the first one, we see Renton has been living in Amsterdam for the past 20 years. Spud still can’t let go of his heroin addiction which is affecting his relationship with his wife and son, whilst trying to get a stable job. Sick Boy is still finding dodgy ways of making money, pursuing the life of blackmail on the side, even if he is a pub landlord. And Begbie is still in prison, serving his 25-year sentence and being denied parole.
If you’re expecting the thrill of the first one to be captured again in this sequel then think again. This is a film about memories. Memories of the past that you can’t let go. Even if years have gone by, it hasn’t healed the mistakes that you have made. The main purpose of this film is to show the toil that age takes upon you. We see flashes of the first film stitched into poignant moments reflecting the “best of times” (even with echoing snippets of the first soundtrack), but really shows that our characters aren’t young adults anymore and have wasted their lives away. It’s also a film about friendship, having moments showing children representing our characters when they were young and how the bond between them began. It’s a more emotional film with a desperation of our “heroes” trying to hold on to what they can of their past, even if the world around them has moved on to a more modern era. It’s welcoming to see that the film embraces the changes that have occurred in the real world these last two decades.
Out of all the main characters, McGregor’s Renton is definitely the one who has aged the most, with Renton being less brash and energetic like he was in the first film. He’s ultimately seeking forgiveness, given what he did at the end of the first film has taken a toil on the rest of the people he is connected with. Miller and Carlyle are still the Sick Boy and Begbie (respectively) that we know, schemers and back stabbers. But it’s Ewen Bremner’s Spud that will carry on being in your head as you leave the cinema. He was my favourite character from the first one and still is in the second one. It’s heartbreaking to see Spud with where he is in his life, given that he is the most likeable of them all.
And that’s one of the issues I have with this film. Other than Spud, none of these characters are likeable at all by the end. You don’t care whether or not they get killed for their actions throughout the film. Another issue is the film doesn’t really have much of a plot. It really becomes some sort of a story near the final 30 minutes. Before that, its a collection of scenes put together (even if some of these scenes beautifully captures the surrealism of the first one), with an okay soundtrack, but Scotland still looks it’s beautiful self on screen.
T2 Trainspotting is about lost youth, broken friendships, and the acceptance of a different era. It’s a welcome return of some of the most iconic characters from film, but never captures what made the first one so unique and special.