Trainspotting ★★★★½

“One thousand years from now there will be no guys and no girls, just wankers. Sounds great to me.”

It is somewhat of an obligatory statement to make but Trainspotting is an important film. Everybody should watch this. This is a harrowing and, at times, pretty deeply moving work that highlights a lot of the more horrible, real-life tragedies of contemporary, lower-class life in Scotland. Look no further for all the evidence you need that a strong director, a brilliant script and a top tier team of actors is all you need to deliver an impactful and memorable 93 minutes. 

Trainspotting is unpleasant. Truly, everything about it is just uncomfortable. Whether it be the characters, the settings, the story and events or just the general tone of the thing, Trainspotting does not make you feel good for the larger part of the run time. Ewan McGregor delivers the performance of his career as Renton and crafts a character so sickeningly pathetic and inherently tragic that you are just rooting for him from the word go. Not a single character is likeable and yet all of them are sympathetic and I think that could possibly be because of just how unlikeable you are. I have no doubt everybody who has ever seen this finds some character in some way relatable, either they want to admit it or not and that is the thing that truly makes them so believable and sympathetic. You just want them all to get better and it breaks your heart.

What a beautifully directed film. There are plenty of great visual moments throughout the piece with Danny Boyle clearly understanding how to work on a budget and deliver equal parts iconic, scary and surreal imagery that will stick with you forever. The cold turkey sequence makes your skin crawl and it should. The makeup and production design is terrific throughout this film which helps a lot to make it so effective. It is confronting how grimy and pale and weak everything is in the film. It all looks so brutally true to life. Put that on the poster; “brutally true to life”. What also goes along way with this is the soundtrack, comprising largely of already popular material from English punk, new wave and britpop icons. Trainspotting crafts a moody and isolating tone for its audience from these sounds alone and it is little wonder that the soundtrack proved as popular as the film itself.

With moments of genuine laughter and thrill, Trainspotting is ultimately a bleak and macabre piece of cinema that might not be to yours, or anybody’s, taste but is no less an influential and eye-opening experience to endure. As equally cynical as it is optimistic, this film is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and essential works of British cinema.

But I am not going to waste any more time writing this review. 

I’m going to choose life.

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