T2 Trainspotting Review: A Nostalgic Trip Down Princess Street
T2 trainspotting hit cinemas over the weekend and with everyone and their Nan busting to get a peak of the sequel to a film that startled and styled a generation, we were all over it like a hot flame on a spoon! (Too much?)
Words by Rhiannon Thornton
The modern day wanting for media to demonstrate a story which predates our existence, or to highlight a stint in our lives which is now only visible though disjointed memories of already hazy days, tied together by an over-all feeling of the times, this is something we as a culture have a unquenchable thirst for. Films such as trainspotting allow for us to reach for our tinted glasses which quite welcomely blanket the complexity of days past, and rather neatly crushes them into something digestible, and in this case that something is backed with a winning soundtrack to make the memories seem that much fonder.
This is the theme to T2 Trainspotting, the long awaited sequel to the unforgettable 1996 film. It isn't only the audience who are stuck in the past, the characters are just as firmly rooted in the nostalgia as we are. As Sickboy, who now more formally goes by Simon puts it "Nostalgia, that's why you're here. You're a tourist in your own youth." Times have changed, music has changed, and drugs have changed but not as much as the initial grit which gripped a generation all those years ago, that has certainly changed.
We're re-introduced to our deplorable characters, as if lining up with anticipation to discover what each one of these familiar faces are up to now; has sick boy found the church? Has beigey challenged his anger into protesting climate change? Let's not be silly. Although we are firstly met by Renton as he's hammering away on a gym treadmill, the first offering of one of many throw backs as it juxtapositions with the memorable opening of Trainspotting, where Renton is still running, except under slightly different circumstances as his wan figure breathlessly makes it away from the police.
T2 doesn't just dip its toe into nostalgia but takes a full on plunder, the worst toilet in Edinburgh style, through the past lives of our scoundrels. T2 contains so many references to the original that it almost stands as a tribute to it rather than a sequel, like a super 8 home movie recalling the good old days of scores past. The defining originality this time round lies in the same quippy dialog that can be played again and again, portrayed of course in the full-bodied accents. For many, trainspotting is one of few films of such scale which dares to boldly portray such unshifting regional accents and for audience members these accents act as call to home, weather that is literally the schemes of Scotland or rather the understanding and familiarity of a working class tongue.
The emotion for the characters has changed. Despite their short-comings, from aptitude to rage control to well, the old heroin problems, we didn't see them as downtrodden; in need of our sorrow. We followed our skagboys with a bordering glee, the fast paced momentum of the film didn't allow for us to drop into such unwelcomed emotion like contempt or pity. Now however Ewan McGregor's character has fled Amsterdam as he divorces from his remorsefully childless marriage, it's difficult not to see him as a dad who is one more birthday away from a tribal tattoo and a motorbike, if not carrying some bruised notion of credibility along with him.
The most blatant display of relived past comes in a scene between Renton and Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkovas) who plays Simons business partner in extortion and part time girlfriend. Renton treats her to a somewhat forced, modernized version of the infamous "choose life" monologue updated with references to Facebook, slut shaming, avocado on toast and zero hour contracts. The speech is clever in that it highlights a new type of addition, a technological one, unfortunately this time around it doesn't hit with such gravitas as the 1996 original. When Renton delivered the speech all those years ago it held authenticity in that he rejected the ideals he mocked, he stood above them, or below them, or to the side of them but whatever way he had no plans to buy a dishwasher or dental insurance. In 2017 as a jaded 40-something with a loss of identity he can only speak from involvement and a likely feeling of bitterness that this is how it's all panned out. As he puts it, he maybe has 30 more years left, and what the fuck is he supposed to do with that?
The most noteworthy development for T2 is the bountiful development of Spud into manhood. As the only one left of the gang who is still on the skag, spud is separated from his now wife Gail and estranged from their teenage son. A touch of creator's ego comes through in spud with the narrative giving him a new lease of life through writing. Renton gives him advice, 'If you're going to be addicted, be addicted to something else' and with encouragement from Veronica to write his stories just as he tells them, referencing the vernacular which Welsh famously uses, he takes up covering his walls in pages of scrawled handwriting which reminisce on past memories.
Although T2 is friendly and familiar, as much so as a gang of heroin addicts can be, it doesn't stand on its own two feet. For anyone who hasn't seen the first Trainspotting or more to the point didn't fall in love with the first, T2 doesn't have much to offer. It doesn't offend, it doesn't overtake the first if there was any intension from its conception of that happening, but it also doesn't stand out as anything more engaging than a television special on a much larger budget. Through the eyes of a similarly aged audience it can offer something which they expected, a tale of the perils of getting older and a realization that you don't always get to choose your life.