Facts 1996, UK, Universal, 90 min
Director Danny Boyle
Cast Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner
Short An honest and terrifying portrayal of four friends and their drug addiction in Scotland, based on a novel by Irvine Welsh.
Content Ewan McGregor stars as Mark ‘Rent Boy’ Renton, a young heroin addict from Edinburgh who, quit early in the film, resolves to get clean. He tries to do so from time to time, but always seems to succumb to score just one more hit. He is well aware of how pathetic his addiction is, but needs it in order to cope with his life. “The downside of coming off junk was that I knew I would need to mix with my friends again in a state of full consciousness,” Renton says in one of many voice-overs.
His (sad) collection of friends consists of wacky, goggle-eyed Spud and bleached blond Sick Boy, who deals drugs without mercy. They sleep, steal and get high. Also in this circle is Tommy, who lapses into drugs after his girlfriend dumps him and a psychotic drunk named Begbie, who revels in violence. Although Renton is clearly the main character, his friends are also important, because they portray different sides of the lowlife experience.
Underneath it all, Renton is seeking to make more of his life and finds himself facing a choice. He either stays with his friends or makes a complete break and starts again. With that in mind, he cleans up and goes to London. At first he does well. He gets a job and starts to pursue his new life. However, his friends follow him and Renton realises that it’s going to be harder then he thought to leave his old life behind
This film is a funny and energetic take on one of the least hilarious topics of all: heroin addiction. With a modern rock soundtrack to push the energy, Trainspotting shows you the euphoria of a drug trip as well as the risks. “Without the pleasure, we wouldn’t do it,” says Renton. “After all, we’re not fucking stupid.”
Why I think you should see it This is not a film for delicate souls. It has some horrifying scenes that really challenge the audience. Most depressing is the one involving a dead baby and another extreme scene takes place in ‘the worst toilet in Scotland’. Renton dives into a disgusting public toilet to retrieve the drug suppositories that he lost. By sticking his head and finally his entire body down the toilet he goes through the bowl and swims through the sewer. This is probably the film’s biggest conversation piece.
Trainspotting is not all terrifying and tragic though, in tone and style it’s really a comedy. The characters are well played by an outstanding cast. They are funny and sharp and therefore weirdly likable. Especially the comically helpless Spud is very amusing. Apart from the characters, the dialogue is great and the film is full of deadpan humor. There’s a great scene where three characters are staring patiently at a blank space in front of them. This is the spot where the television set used to be, before somebody stole it.
Danny Boyle uses bright colors and wide angles so the film stays fresh in spite of the dark subject. The drug scenes are filmed in a surreal way to convey the sense of a drug rush. This way seeing this film can make you feel as if you know what it’s like to use heroin. It really gets inside the mind of an addict and captures the life-consuming power of addiction.
(Somewhat) Similar Requiem For A Dream, The Basketball Diaries, A Clockwork Orange
- The film has a great soundtrack that includes Blur, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and Underworld.
- The whole film was shot in just seven and a half weeks.
- Many of the book’s stories and characters were dropped in order to create a cohesive script of appropriate length.
- If you watch closely there are many references to the Beatles. When the four friends are watching the train, for example, they are arranged in the same manner as the Beatles did on the back of the album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. And the scene where the four friends cross the road and enter the hotel is a lot like the cover of ‘Abbey Road’.
- Irvine Welsh, the author of the book, has a cameo in the film as Mickey Forrester, Renton’s heroin dealer.
Favourite quote “Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”