Trainspotting - a triumph of British film

'As indispensible as it is harrowing' - Trainspotting.
'As indispensible as it is harrowing' - Trainspotting.

A common misconception associated with ‘Trainspotting’ is that it glorifies heroin abuse.

This could not be less true – it vilifies it. What it does glorify is British film.

We are firstly introduced to Renton (Ewan McGregor), a Scottish youth stumbling through the 90s with no life prospects bar his unhealthy addiction to heroin.

But he wants to get clean. He wants a chance to live a monotonous life full of material objects and the stress of a nine to five job.

However, the barricade imprisoning him on the wrong side of the fence is that all his best friends and associates are in the same predicament.

We have Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller), the Sean Connery worshipping, philosophy-spouting, loveable rogue; Spud (Ewan Bremner), the hopeless product of a vicious circle, who doesn’t interview well, and Begbie (Robert Carlyle), the psychotic ticking time-bomb that greets any sign of hostility with the back end of a pool cue.

After being tormented by ghosts and his parents, Renton finally gets clean and starts a new life in London.

But his past soon comes back to haunt him in the form of Begbie, who turns up unannounced on his doorstep seeking shelter from the police, followed closely by Sick Boy after his pimping business fails.

The return of everything he left behind in his homeland catapults Renton back into a life of crime – with a poorly drawn drug deal which, inevitably, goes pear-shaped – illustrating his inability to break the cycle.

Irvine Welsh’s source novel is a delight but in Danny Boyle’s hands Trainspotting has become more than an example of vital Scottish literature. It has become a fable, a parable perhaps, highlighting the fact that heroin is the answer to no question.

Any aspiring British film director should watch and learn, because Trainspotting is as mesmerising as it is entertaining, and indispensable as it is harrowing.