TrainspottingMonday, Jan 30, 2017 · 700 words · approx 3 mins to read
I just got back from seeing T2: Trainspotting, the sequel to 1996’s Trainspotting, and I feel compelled to write something about how it’s made me feel. In the last decade or so I’ve come to get emotionally involved in TV and film that I watch. I’m not really sure why if I’m honest, other than I guess general emotional growth as a person.
The biggest manifestation of my emotional involvement in what I’m watching is empathy for characters that are experiencing something incredibly difficult or traumatic to deal with. I find myself especially moved if there’s a parent-child relationship, particularly if it involves either the death of one side, or a reunification. It doesn’t need a psychologist to connect the dots on that one with me; I lost my mum when I was 16.
There’s a bit of that in T2. Without spoiling it, the main characters are all 20 or so years older in T2, and so the regular course of life has led some of them to have kids, and some of them to lose their parents. The film deals with some of those relationships, and really the relationships the characters have with the younger versions of themselves and each other, in some touching, poignant and difficult ways.
A running theme across both films is how the characters push the boundaries about how they behave towards each other. At the very end of the first film, Renton fucks his best friends over by stealing all of the money from the drug deal they just pulled off. All of them are desperate for the money in some way or another and are very close friends in the film, so to have one of them do that to the others, well, it defines the films really
In T2, because of Renton’s actions at the end of the first film, you see the other three deal with it 20 years later in their own ways. As you can guess, some of that is pretty unpleasant. I’m really not a big fan of watching other human beings be horrible to each other, and horrible they are in T2. It’s a black comedy, so I think you’re supposed to (uncomfortably) laugh at what’s going on, but I just never felt like that.
There’s nothing noteworthy about feeling like that, except I maybe would have laughed if it wasn’t for the setting. Set in and around Edinburgh, the film took me back to dark places in my own childhood and early adulthood more than was honestly comfortable. Extreme poverty and a total lack of options for the people living in small town Scotland, and the film driving home the idea that no matter what happens to the characters and what breaks they reach for, they’ll always end up back at square one (in their case, broke, turning to crime and heroin to keep going)…I have the shivers just typing that out.
The accents and setting, mixed in with what happens, and especially how the characters treat and have treated each other, meant that while the film was really good as a piece of cinema and a lens on that kind of life in Scotland, I didn’t enjoy it at all. I remarked a few years ago on a trip to Aberdeen with my brother that if we didn’t have family there I might never go back. T2 made me feel like that again.
Needed to get that — something which is really difficult as someone who lived there for 24 years, almost from birth — off my chest so that I don’t dwell on it so much over the next few days.