Trainspotting, in more than 100 words.



Before Slumdog Millionaire, before the multiple Academy Awards, Danny Boyle made a film called Trainspotting, which was about a group of heroin addicts in Scotland. In this film, Ewan McGregor had his international breakthrough role as Mark Renton. Trainspotting depicts the lives of these characters in an extremely graphic manner, and this film definitely contains nudity (an explicit sex scene), violence, drug use, and heaps of foul language.

The question: What is the “big idea” in Danny Boyle’s film adaptation of the Irvine Welsh novel, Trainspotting?

Well, apparently, the “big idea” that this film is trying to convey is far deeper than simply “don’t do drugs”. The graphic images which depict drug use and its consequences are enough to steer most people away from ever touching heroin, let alone shoot it up. I think that more than just telling people not to do drugs, Trainspotting shows us that most of the decisions that people make don’t just happen, but are rather the result of the environment that these people live in. This is similar to some coming-of-age films and TV series which depict rebellious teenagers that act out as a way to get away from the hostile environments they have to deal with at home.

We see these characters: Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, Tommy and Begbie, who live in a pretty nasty part of Edinburgh, Scotland. These characters could actually represent real people in real life. They live a fairly rough lifestyle, are unemployed and living in pretty nasty housing conditions. Because it’s commonplace for people living in similar conditions in their area to be into alcohol, smoking, violence and drugs, they allow such vices, particularly heroin, to consume their lives, possibly as their own “way out”. Although Trainspotting is likely to be an exaggerated interpretation of such dangerous lifestyles, this film shows the reality that there are places in the world, even in economically developed nations which people from third-world countries look upon as some sort of Promised Land, where people are living in such horrible situations, either through poverty, illness, abuse or vices, that they turn to dangerous substances as a form of escape.

Trainspotting is an inside look into the brutal reality of a junkie’s life, showing that it’s not just about drugs and the horrible consequences that come with heroin addiction. This film also depicts the causes of such actions, such as why Tommy, who was supposedly the film’s paragon of health and well-being, decided to take a hit for the first time, which eventually cost him his life. This film shows that heroin abuse is a gamble, like a game of Russian Roulette. Renton and Sick Boy, who were junkies for a long time, were able to get their lives back together but Tommy, who is the last character in the film to try heroin, dies from its abuse.

Whether or not we, the viewers, are supposed to sympathise with these characters just might be up to us. To some audience members, the characters in this film deserve some pity for choosing such actions. People like Renton are not necessarily “bad people”, just as prostitutes aren’t “bad people”, because even though the decisions they make are destructive, there is a definite reason for everything. I don’t think junkies try heroin for the hell of it, at least not most. Other audience members could look upon these characters and simply think that they had a choice to choose between life and their current lifestyles, and that because they chose the other they should be responsible for their actions. I support the first theory, because what made me so mentally and emotionally engaged into watching this film is the fact that I was looking into lives of people that are so different from me that I’m glad that I’m not in a situation wherein I’m forced to make such choices. So I don’t think that the big idea in this film is “don’t do drugs”. I think that this film is trying to make us reflect upon ourselves and the actions we make, because even our most seemingly insignificant decisions can make a huge impact on our lives.


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