With news that the film version of the sequel may be in the pipeline, Fiona Longmuir looks at the 90s classic to see if it’s stood the test of time.
What and why: Danny Boyle’s gruesome adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting: a brutal depiction of heroin abuse in 1990s Leith.
Danny Boyle has expressed interest in doing a second movie, based on Welsh’s follow-up novel Porno. With all four main actors seemingly game, I decided to revisit the original to see if it was worthy of a sequel.
Besides, I’d never turn down a chance to rewatch it.
Rated or dated: Declaration of bias: this is one of my all-time favourite movies. I first watched it aged 15 at the insistence of a movie-buff friend and it literally left my mouth hanging open. And that wasn’t just because Ewan McGregor’s was the first penis I’d ever seen.
The story is pretty much relentlessly bleak, following a group of young men and women as they spiral into addiction and lose control of their lives. As much as the dramatic, life-defining moments, Trainspotting focuses on the torturous drip-drip boredom of days filled with nothing but daytime TV, petty crime and the thought of the next hit.
The characters are stunningly written and acted to perfection, staggering wildly between blatant caricature and utter relatability. Ewan McGregor manages to turn Renton into an incredibly likeable main character, who oozes charm and intelligence, even when he’s stealing his mate’s homemade porno or emptying his guts into a hellhole of a bookies’ toilet.
“If I had a penny for every time my mum and I have said to each other, ‘Aye awright, sorry man – you are the dude in the chair,’ I’d have enough pennies to fund a sustainable heroin habit.”
Robert Carlyle is an absolute powerhouse as Begbie: a violent lunatic who steals the show every time he’s on screen. Ewen Bremner as Spud is probably one of my favourite performances of all time. He’s just so damn useless and that is very endearing. Jonny Lee Miller is logic-defyingly fanciable, storing heroin in the heel of his shoe, spouting facts about James Bond and sensually licking things at every available opportunity. They’re lying, cheating scumbags… and yet we root for them all the way.
The dirt and grittiness of the story does absolutely nothing to diminish how stylish the film is and that’s probably down to the direction and the script. The camera doesn’t shy away from the squalor; it delights in it. The aforementioned infamous toilet scene I have managed to watch once and I retched all the way through. It gies me the boak, as we’d put it where I’m from. But Trainspotting balances the horrifying reality with stylised, absurd dream sequences so beautiful you can’t help but stare.
For me though, the star of the movie is the script. From the first immortal “choose life…” to the iconic closing monologue, every line is slick, biting and generally hilarious. Even the throwaway lines are endlessly quotable. If I had a penny for every time my mum and I have said to each other, “Aye awright, sorry man – you are the dude in the chair,” I’d have enough pennies to fund a sustainable heroin habit. I tend to save “It was fuckin’ obvious that cunt was gonnae fuck some cunt” for people who are not my mother. The “It’s shite being Scottish” speech nails it so completely that it actually goes full circle and makes me feel a bit patriotic. That I struggled to pick a few of my favourite quotes rather than just pasting a transcript of the entire movie is testament to its brilliance.
Leith might have cleaned up its act in the years since but the story of Scottish working-class drug abuse is as relevant now as it ever was. Walk into any pub in my hometown and you’ll find those four characters staring back at you. With the brief exception of Renton’s penchant for crop tops, completely 100% RATED.4777 Views
Fiona Longmuir is a professional storyteller, reluctant adult and aspiring funny girl. When not getting naked in tube stations and binge-watching inappropriate TV shows, she can be found scribbling at the Escapologist's Daughter.