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Trainspotting 2: Why choosing nostalgia wasn't the best idea for this sequel

The gang is back together – but they're blighted by memories of the past

  • Sean Griffiths
  • 20 January 2017

In many ways, the original Trainspotting is a perfect film. Like a great debut album, it zips along on a wave youthful vigour. It’s hard not to be wowed by the sheer velocity of it. Watch it back today, and you’ll find not one frame is wasted. Every second propels the story forward. Or makes you laugh. Or makes you care. Or breaks your heart. Add to that a young cast and director all at their dazzling best, a fantastic soundtrack and the fact that, despite its grizzly subject matter, it managed to capture the heady optimism of the time, and you’ve got quite a potent cocktail. Which begs the question, how do you follow up a perfect film? With an imperfect one it seems.

T2 Trainspotting, (or T2), picks up on the gang 20 years later. Renton is back in Edinburgh after a 20-year exile in Amsterdam. The last time we saw Mark he’d just swindled his pals out of £4,000 each (minus Spud who he kindly compensated). In the two decades since, he's imposed a policy of zero contact with his childhood friends (wise, knowing the temperament of some of them) and has avoided Scotland to the point where he missed his own mother's funeral. But, as his life disintegrates in The Dam, the allure of returning to Leith becomes oddly appealing to the newly gym-addicted Renton.

Sick Boy is running his auntie's pub, plus a few scams with his Bulgarian girlfriend, and living in the grip of a cocaine habit, while Spud is still in a depressing circle of heroin addiction and failure. Francis Begbie is out of jail after spending most of the last 20 years incarcerated for murder, and is now splitting his time between committing robberies, intimidating his son and dealing with the disappointment of erectile dysfunction. For some reason, the authorities haven’t thought to look for him in his family home, but perhaps that’s just the state of the justice system in Scotland at the moment.

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