I was really looking forward to seeing this film, I wasn’t disappointed.
The original was released in 1996 just before Tony Blair and New Labour came to power. Most of my friends had lived through Thatcher’s Britain and the subsequent “fuck the system” attitude that her society had bred, as the gap between the have and have nots widened yearly until most lived in widely different worlds. Never the twain shall meet…the media constantly portraying anyone who wasn’t living a mainstream lifestyle as deviant.
What followed for a lot of people was the “who cares, let’s just have fun” approach to life. ie. get high on something…anything. Smack was de rigueur, Kate Moss was very popular and looking like you’d just spent 32 hours partying was pretty normal…worlds collided in fashion and music. Blur, Oasis and Pulp were still singing it like it was.
So, when the credits started rolling a lot of memories flooded back. I was hoping that the original’s gritty edginess would still be evident and we wouldn’t just see a rehash of the plot with older actors picking up a hefty paycheck to supplement their coming retirement…not mentioning any other franchises that have released such films, young jedi…ahem 😉
Anyways, watching the start of the film I was hooked. Re introducing us to the characters was a clever pastiche of current and past shots and scenes. This approach provided a continuity throughout the film, Trainspotting (the film, I’ve never read the book) never delved that deep into the backgrounds of the characters apart from conspiratorial looks between characters and comments about past situations.
This time we learn about the interactions between Franco/ Begbie, Mark/ Rentboy, Simon/ Sickboy and Danny/ Spud from a very young age. I had thought Begbie was just on the periphery of the group of friends when I watched the original but watching how they got to know him was really interesting and added a lot to both stories. I am going to watch Trainspotting again, think it’ll make more sense and add more to the interactions between those core characters (I’ll post that review when I can).
Changes in interactions are obvious, ie. due to the way the original ended but also with the natural passage of time. First names are used, not just Sickboy/ Spud/ Rentboy this unconsciously suggests to the viewer they have grown and are not the young tearaways intent on fucking the system anymore. They’ve done that, been there, got the T – shirt, worn the T – shirt, been to group therapy where they realised why they wore the T – shirt and now wear sportswear/ smart casual and don’t give a fuck about the whole premise, they just want to enjoy their lives without any violence (well, most of them).
The totally new characters with screen time are Veronika and Franco’s grown up son Fergus. Both are strong characters and play integral parts in the story.
The scenes with Franco and Fergus are funny and anxiety inducing, I wondered what Begbie was going to do to his son because he is still a “nutter” for much of the film. But not just one dimensional, he can’t break out of the world in his head and we learn some of the reasons why…I won’t spoil it for you.
Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) is very believable as a Hungarian prostitute and main love interest. She works for Doyle, a violent pimp with a quirky sense of authority who lets Simon and Mark know their place with interesting results…
I won’t go into much more detail as I don’t want to spoil it for you but cameos by Gail (Shirley Henderson), Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and Mikey (Irvine Welsh) provide much more insight into the past and present. Plus Mark’s father played by James Cosmo is, as always, very good, he is one of my favourite actors not just a celebrity big brother contestant…
Like I said at the start, as a fan of the original I wasn’t disappointed. I loved this film. I have lost people in my life to heroin and Tommy reminded me of some very painful times in my life.
I’m not ashamed to say there were tears in my eyes as I remembered those friends no longer with us but I think, for me, the message of the film is an acceptance of the folly of life in the moment and knowledge gained later in life that the moment can’t last for long.