‘Choose life’—that was their slogan, but they chose heroin instead. Twenty years on, Renton returns to Edinburgh to face up to the shocking way he left it; having stolen thousands in pounds from his lifelong friends, and having given his best mate masses of cash, unwittingly enabling his full-blown addiction.
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In the time since Renton (Ewan McGregor) left Sick Boy (Johnny), Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Begbie (Robert Carlisle), having stolen their share of a massive heroin deal, not much has changed. Spud is still battling his addition, and is struggling the most with being an adult. His partner has left him, he can’t find a job, his kids don’t want to know him, and he’s ready to say ‘goodbye’ to the world.
Sick Boy, or Simon as he goes by these days, is still dipping his toe in crime and drugs—but, this time it’s extortion and cocaine. He’s teamed up with a sex worker to film and then blackmail high profile people with evidence of their illicit encounters. It’s a fruitful gig, until one particular participant decides they’re not going to be a victim of it.
Begbie is still serving time. He’s 20 years into a prison sentence, and has just been denied bail once again. This time, he decides to take things into his own hands and with the help of a knitting needle, soon finds himself free to roam once more. Should he discover Renton’s return to Edinburgh, he will no doubt be the most interested in renewing their old acquaintance.
It turns out that Renton has been living a relatively ordinary life. Having kicked his heroin habit, he’s been living in Amsterdam, working in accounts, with a wife. She’s about to divorce him, which has lead him to return finally to the only home he’s ever known—even though he’s wanted there for all the wrong reasons.
In this nostalgic tour through their youth, Renton, Spud and Simon come to love each other once more. The horrors of their former addiction are faced, but also the reality that it’s not easy staying clean, or on a straight path, when so much of your past is tainted. It’s this poignancy at the heart of a cult classic that makes this long-awaited sequel so special.
T2 is a beautiful reflection on friendship, the imperfection of lives lived in a constant state of struggle, and the difficult relationship many of us have with our past—or, more specifically, with leaving our youth behind. Fans of the original can rejoice, because Danny Boyle has done a masterful job returning these characters to us in a way that is authentic to who they were and who they would likely be today.
There is also a lovely ode to the author, Irvine Welsh, whose book gave rise to the film. Spud evolves into a writer who personifies the bold literary path Welsh took when he chose to challenge literary conventions to write his novels in an authentic Scottish dialect, using the colloquialisms that serve to lift the words off the page.
T2 Trainspotting is an exceptional film. It manages to tackle so many of the challenges of disadvantage and disconnection, while also showing real love, loyalty and spirit. As a sequel, it builds beautifully on material that was so bold, honest and fresh for its time. Despite being a game changer, T2 Trainspotting has resisted the standard rehashed offering of many sequels, and instead audiences have been gifted with a new chapter that’s as mature and self-reflexive as its now 46-year-old lead.
If you loved Trainspotting, you know you’ll choose T2 Trainspotting—and you won’t be disappointed. The music, the energy, the reality and the poignancy make this cult classic as relevant today as it was when it captured the disaffected Scottish youth over 20 years ago.
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlisle
Runtime: 1 hr 57 mins
Release Date: Feb 23
Reviewer Rating: 5/5
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