Larry’s review published on Letterboxd:
The word "trainspotting" can mean alot of things.
It literally translates to the phyisical act of watching trains, whether it be for a hobby or for recreation.
It's also commonly used among junkies to signal the track marks it leaves on the arms of addicts.
In the context of Danny Boyle's masterpiece, the word means all of the above. The life of a heroin addict could be summed up as the act of watching trains. You are watching hundreds of lives pass you by as the train speeds past. There are people going many different places. There are people coming from heartbreaks and there are people heading towards a new life. The addict isn't a part of all this. He is the bystander. He is just kind of "there" watching everybody move past him.
Trainspotting sets out to expose the life of an addict through many different aspects. This nihilistic portrait of drug addicts is filmed with a gritty and darkly comic atmosphere that is complimented by director Danny Boyle's excellent camera work and dazzling editing.
Once the hit of heroin makes itself aware in your body, most people experience what they call "the drop" in which the intense rush of euphoria and numbness is known to put people right on the floor. Danny Boyle films "drop" sequences that include characters falling through the floor and rugs to symbolize a passing into a subconscious realm. The drug use in this movie is shown in an explicit and unflinching way that will ensure it stays with you. This is one of those rare films where I feel like I need to take a shower afterwards....
But this painstaking attention to detail adds to the realistic tone of the film. The group of friends are marvelously acted (includes greats such as Ewan McGreggor, Kelly Macdonald, and Robert Carlyle) and their dialogue and banter between each other is hilarious and authentic. Yes, despite the dead serious subject material, the film still manages to contain a few funny scenes. These are most likely put in place to get us to connect to these people and at the same time it represents the detachment from reality and the joking manner that many addicts exemplify in real life. It's a deeply tragic film but at the same time you never feel full of depression or dread. Addiction is only a backdrop that these surprisingly normal people cant shake. The impoverished lifestyle made them naturally turn towards criminal activity and this adds to the central message of the film. Impoverished young adults turn to these kinds of activities because society lets them think that it's ok due to their social standings. The urban environments on display here are disgusting, graffiti riddled, cesspools. The drugs just fit right in naturally, so If the shoe fits, wear it. Right?
Many attempts are made by the characters to leave this lifestyle behind, but they rarely work. The rehabilitation sequence in this film is shot in such a creative yet realistic way. I've been where Renton was. I've been in a bed by myself coming down off of a heavy drug. It's terrifying and its like being trapped inside your own mind with no sense of time or place. Its like the scariest horror movie you can imagine. And Danny Boyle catches it all.
Trainspotting, I believe is a perfect movie. There are movies that are more deep, philosophical, and probably more entertaining. But this movie delivers its theme in such a powerful way that its very hard to shake once its turned off. It's got full and defined character arcs and portrays a life of addiction in an entirely different way than other films.
Other films would be a bloated 2 and a half hour dread fest that spells everything out for you. This movie instead makes you FEEL addiction instead of trying to simulate it, or inform you about it. The movie will be over before you know it. It hits you fast, moves around quickly and vaguely, and ends abruptly. The ending sobers you up and you are returned to real life. The film is almost like a heroin trip itself. And that's entirely unique.
We aren't trainspotters watching addicts pass by on the screen. We're right there watching lives pass by with them.