by Joanna Orland
“Nostalgia, that’s why you’re here. You’re a tourist in your own youth,”says Sick Boy to Renton, although he may as well have been speaking directly to the audience. After 21 years since the first Trainspotting hit our screens, Danny Boyle has helmed not only a literal sequel to the iconic film, but a very sentimental companion piece of sorts. What Boyle has made is a poignant film about middle age and mid life crises, using the familiar characters of Trainspotting as a metaphor for the audience’s own aging. Anyone seeing T2 will clearly remember the original experience of watching Trainspotting for the first time, and are likely around the same age as the cast of characters who have also aged 20 years in the film. We’re all at the same age in our lives, reflecting on the past, wondering what to do with the future. It’s a crossroads, a crises and we can all relate to it, even if we didn’t shoot up heroin in our youth.
Set 20 years after the events of the original film, T2 Trainspotting sees Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) return to Edinburgh after a near death experience. He revisits his family home, and then reconciles with his long lost friends Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller). Begbie has much of an isolated storyline as he’s managed to escape from prison after a long sentence, reuniting with his son. As Renton walks the streets of Edinburgh, he is accompanied by visual flashbacks from the first film, recreation of famous shots and editing styles, snippets and remixes of the recognizable original soundtrack, all in a dreamlike state – making reference to the original but also representing Renton touring his youth. They say the nostalgia cycle is 20 years, and T2 Trainspotting has built its entire premise on this notion.
While the characters are still troubled 20 years on, the years have changed them in very middle-aged ways, and not just with the guts, greys and wrinkles they now display. The intricacies in the differences between then and now are fully thought out, each representing growing up, if not exactly maturing. For example, Renton, Sick Boy and Begbie now all go by their proper first names of Mark, Simon and Frank respectively, signifying they’ve moved on from their heroin addiction. While Spud remains “Spud” as he has not yet managed to kick his habit.
There are many layers to this film; a story about where the Trainspotting characters are now, a story about reaching middle-age, a story about lost youth, a story about regret – all rather sombre and sad as the audience empathizes fully. T2 Trainspotting has moved on from its iconic story from two decades past, much as we too have moved on. But after 20 years, it’s time for that nostalgic feeling to kick in, and so we reflect on the past.