"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a starter home. Choose dental insurance, leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose your future. But why would anyone want to do a thing like that?"
I have no idea what Trainspotting actually means, but this 1996 Danny Boyle film is truly an entertaining cinematic experience. It's about a group of friends in a small Scottish town who spend their lives getting stoned and having fun. The film isn't afraid to show how exciting their world is when getting high, but at the same time it shows the devastating effects that drugs have on them. It is this balance that Boyle manages to achieve, between the brutal portrayal of drug addiction and the fun and relaxed life these friends seem to be experiencing, what has made audiences worldwide enjoy this film for decades. The energetic 80's soundtrack, the great performances from McGregor, Miller, Carlyle, Bremner, and McKidd, the clever screenplay adaptation by John Hodge from Welsh's novel, and the visual style that Boyle uses is what have turned Trainspotting into such a classic and memorable film. There isn't much going on plot wise in the sense that the film focuses on these five friends who spend pretty much every day getting high and partying, but at the same time there are so many engaging and funny moments that allow for the viewer to relate to these characters. Some of the best moments are the simple ones where we see these characters interact with each other speaking about what toxoplasmosis is, how important it is for them to mess up their job interviews, what their favorite James Bond films are, and what the unifying theory of life actually means. There are so many entertaining moments in the simple dialogues that an actual plot isn't really needed.
The film takes place sometime during the late 80's in a small Scottish town named Edinburgh where five friends spend most of their time getting stoned and having no other cares in the world. Renton (Ewan McGregor) seems content with his life the way it's going despite his parents concern for him to get clean and give up his heroin habit. He realizes it's about time for him to try getting himself together and so he decides to quit his addiction. This decision won't have a lasting effect because he still surrounds himself with his friends: the naive and sincere Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) who's obsessed with James Bond, the jock Tommy (Kevin McKidd), and the psychotic Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Tommy and Begbie aren't junkies, but Renton's closest friends (Spud and Sick Boy) share his addiction. Despite wanting to clean up, Renton doesn't want to abandon his friends which ultimately lead him back to his addiction. Renton also happens to fall in love with a girl he meets at a club. After spending a night with Diane (Kelly Macdonald) he realizes the next morning she's only fourteen. Trainspotting is about the struggle Renton faces to quit his addiction while trying to maintain his relationship with his friends and not letting them affect him.
For some people Trainspotting has a little too much fun with drug addiction, but I would have to disagree. There are some very brutal and terrifying scenes about the effects of heroin and Boyle manages to balance both these elements. It may not be as dark as Requiem for a Dream, but it does feel more authentic and real in its treatment of drug abuse. It shows the pleasure that the drug gives at first, but the devastating consequences it has after the effect is over. These guys have to get involved in criminal activities in order to fund their addictions and neglect pretty much everyone around them. Their only ambition in life is to get stoned and they could care less about anything else. The film is also pretty sincere in its portrayal of how difficult it is to give up the habit. Through some stylized visuals and a great performance from McGregor we see how devastating and depressing it can be to get cleaned up. Ultimately drugs destroy their lives and the pleasure lasted for only a moment. Trainspotting is authentic and realistic in its portrayal while at the same time never ceasing to entertain the audience. A lot of credit has to be given to a relatively unknown then, Danny Boyle, and to the breakout performance from Ewan McGregor. Trainspotting boosted their careers and deservingly so.