Out of all the movies I’m planning to cover in this “HARD TO WATCH” series Trainspotting may be the easiest one to watch. And it is still pretty damn hard to take in. Unlike some basic horror movies that try to make you squirm with incredible FX that make your stomach turn, Trainspotting just shows you the horrors of drug addiction and what it can make you do. Many may consider Trainspotting a drama with some funny moments. Me? It’s not a horror film in the basic sense but the flick is pretty fucked up.
It had been a number of years since I had seen Trainspotting. It’s not the type of film that I can take down from the shelf every six months and say, “OK, let’s have a go!” At its core Trainspotting is an incredible film with some amazing directing and acting – mostly thanks to its cast which includes Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, and Robert Carlyle. Like its American cousin Requiem for a Dream the film shows the highs and lows of drug addiction. Watching the film I usually feel like shit. It almost makes me want to jump out of a second story window. It really makes you see the horrors of what drugs can do to you. Not just any drugs. This film has everything from drinking to heroin. But it is really what the characters will do to get high…any high. And they’ll do anything to obtain that high.
The film (and I’m sure the book that preceded it) isn’t preachy. You can watch the film and say, “I’m not going to do drugs.” You can watch the film, go do drugs, and not give a fuck. But if you watch this film, get fucked, then fuck up your life it isn’t like Danny Boyle (and Irvine Welsh) didn’t try their hardest to warn you.
The film takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland where three mates Renton (McGregor), Sick Boy (Miller), and Spud (Bremner) all love to get high. They always head to Mother Superior’s (Peter Mullan) apartment where they can score their scag and shoot up. I’ve never shot up heroin nor have I ever seen anyone shoot up heroin but watching the actors onscreen…it is how I imagine someone who shoots up heroin looks like. It is basically pure pleasure going right into your veins.
The film then moves from Renton wanting to get off of drugs only to get more drugs then trying once again to stay off drugs. It is a balancing act and the plot interweaves itself right through Renton’s plight. You see the highs of drugs but the film really beats you down with the lows. Whether it is a baby dying, whether it is getting caught stealing, whether it is dying of AIDS…the movie pulls no punches. And because of how quick time flies Renton is missing his entire life as it passes by in a blur.
The film is unapologetic. There is a section where Renton just barely escapes going to jail (while Spud gets 6 months). To celebrate everyone goes to the pub. Renton feels alone so what does he do? He leaves his friends and family, goes to Mother Superior’s apartment, buys a hit, and puts it right into his vein. The heroin is too much and as he convulses he falls into the ground, literally 6 feet under. The camera work is amazing here – telling us that this man is so close to death. He’s already in the ground, just throw the dirt on him. Mother Superior? He drags Renton outside for the ambulance. He doesn’t quite have a care and why should he? Just another junkie close to death. And when he gets to the hospital the doctors and nurses do their best to try and save a junkie who really should be dead right now.
Renton’s parents try but who listens to their parents, especially if you are young and on heroin? All of his friends are on smack except for Begbie who is just a fucking lunatic without shooting up. Literally the only good influence on Renton is Diane (Kelly MacDonald) who is a 15 year old schoolgirl Renton accidentally slept with. That’s how fucked his life is.
The first two acts of this film are riveting. A ton of this film is voiceover – simply whatever Renton is thinking in his mind. Too much voiceover in a film is bullshit and bad storytelling but it works here because we are hearing what Renton is thinking, they are just trying to explain the plot. And the film gets worse and worse until Renton is locked in a room to detox where the horrors of his life come back to haunt him.
The third act is where Renton gets himself together but, thanks to his friends, there is always a fuck-up around the corner just waiting to happen. The ending is brilliant with Renton making a major decision to fuck over his mates and start anew. This whole sequence ends with Underworld’s brilliant Born Slippy song which, along with Iggy Pop, really brings back memories of this movie. You hear Lust for Life and/or Born Slippy and not think of Trainspotting there may be something wrong with you.
I do think that Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream have a lot in common but Requiem takes drug use, addiction, and bad decisions even further than Trainspotting did. Show some young kid these two films and it may turn them off from drugs. Seriously. They would never show this in 10th grade English class…but they really should. It’s a movie that makes you think and makes you disgusted at the same time.
Trainspotting recently got a memberberries sequel that looked great and was well acted, but really just serves as “Memba this? Memba that? Memba Renton? Memba Lust for Life?” It’s an okay follow-up but has nowhere near the impact the original film does. Though they have this train station sequence in the sequel that I could not remember being in the original film (it’s a flashback) and, during this rewatch, I didn’t see it again. Cut from the original film? Not in the version I saw? I saw it overseas…so I imagine they didn’t cut it out (there was some cuts for the American release).
Either way if you want to see how disgusting life can be watch Trainspotting. It may be worse than any horror film you can ever watch.
I seriously can’t believe that McGregor moved from this to Star Wars…boggles my damn mind.