My first experience of Trainspotting was a theatre production in the tiny round studio at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff. It completely blew my mind! Up close to four incredibly talented actors playing multiple parts and switching between comedy and tragedy in a moment, left me dumbfounded. It probably remains the most poignant piece of theatre I have seen.
I then read the book and loved that too, relishing the Edinburgh dialect, perfect characterisation, humour and despair. I soon became one of my all time favourites. The film had a lot to live up to and apart from the soundtrack, and the visual images that could only work on-screen, I always felt it didn’t deliver the same impact as the book or play for me. Perhaps, had I seen the film first, this would have been different.
I went on to read a number of Irvine Welsh books, none of them quite lived up to Trainspotting. When my daughter was born, I was reading the follow-up book to Trainspotting, ‘Porno’. I remember my husband made me hide it under the bed when the midwife visited, because he didn’t want to give her the wrong impression. I enjoyed the follow up but it wasn’t a patch on Trainspotting.
When a friend invited me to a pre-screening of T2 Trainspotting, I was excited (especially having heard great things about it from friends in the UK), but I was a little worried it would disappoint.
I loved it for its pure unadulterated nostalgia, it was like meeting up with a group of friends you haven’t seen for 20 years. Though it drew on aspects of the ‘Porno’ story it followed a new narrative that was both warm and funny. The strength of Trainspotting the novel was in the characters and how each of them told a story and T2 very much lived up to this. Renton, Sickboy, Spud and Begbie have grown up, but, as most 40 somethings will recognise, underneath they are still the lads they always were. Just as it is hard for us to believe that it has been 20 years since Trainspotting, the film revolves around the theme of where has time gone and what have I done? As Renton puts it
“I’m 46 and I’m fucked!”.
There is plenty in the film to transport you back to the original. Flashbacks to the iconic scenes are abundant, as are modern-day twists, like Renton going back to his perfectly preserved bedroom and putting ‘Lust for Life’ on the turntable and a new ‘toilet scene’. The most memorable is the new Choose Life speech, some will hate it but I personally like the commentary on 20 years of change and how it drew the two films together.
Danny Boyle talked about the pressure to make an exceptional soundtrack in his Q&A after the film. From one viewing, it didn’t disappoint, the soundtrack had guts and mixed modern with nostalgia. I loved his decision to pay homage to David Bowie, not by including the song Golden Years (originally intended for the first film) but by lingering on the record in extended silence, as Renton chooses a record to play. Boyle talked about his love for Trainspotting the book and clearly had a genuine passion for the project. For me that’s what I loved most, the actors and production team couldn’t hide their love for the Trainspotting story, the characters and world created by Irvine Welsh.
I’m 46 and I’m hooked. I’m off to re-read Trainspotting before I watch it again.