500 Movie Challenge: Trainspotting

TrainspottingI need to clarify something before launching into talking about Trainspotting: This movie is not about trains. Not at all. The word “trainspotting” is slang for searching for a vein thick enough for shooting up, i.e. for shooting heroin. This movie is about heroin. Lots and lots of heroin.

The gist: We open with Renton, a young Scot living in a flat with a bunch of his friends. They’ve all been friends forever, and they’re all addicted to something. For most of them, it’s heroin. But others choose pills, alcohol or just plain fighting. Everyone gets that their addictions are supposedly dangerous, but frankly there’s nothing else to look forward to in their part of the world.

But then God switches on the tragedy faucet. A baby dies because the mother was partying with Renton and the gang and neglected it. Someone gets arrested for theft. Another person is diagnosed with HIV. So Renton stops prolonging the inevitable and gets sober. But once he does, he realizes just how boring his life is and how little his friends really care about him. One relapse and complete detox later, and Renton’s living in his own flat in London. Great stuff! But his druggie friends have learned that he has cash to burn. They need him for one last score, because what else are friends for?

What I “learned”: What if the criticisms of the “square world” that addicts and other completely unhealthy people lobbied at it were true? Would we be able to handle such a possibility?

This film was a big one in the Pacific Northwest Liberal College lexicon of film, and I see why. It’s a feck-the-system film that’s really well made, and paints a portrait of a drug user who’s actually highly relatable. But this film is unique in that the druggies have valid complaints about the society in which they’re living. There’s nothing to do. There’s nowhere to go if you don’t have money. The life their parents want for them is devoid of any adventure. So why not shoot up? I can say as someone in America that you can create the adulthood you want, but it seems much more hopeless if your part of the country is surrounded by abject sadness.

See this movie if you like: Drug movies with a special focus on the relationships that come with using drugs. When Renton gets completely clean, he isn’t so much frustrated with his sobriety so much as his friends. They won’t let him go his own way, and use him as a source for money and stashing space. Renton’s angry because he’s being used, and these friendships aren’t as genuine as he once thought. That’s something anyone can fee, whether or not they’ve ever used drugs.

Avoid this movie if: You’re easily frustrated with drug movies that have a happy ending. Or, more accurate, a rehab ending. The characters you sympathize with as the audience get clean, and the despicable characters get what’s coming to them. It’s a little too clean, too neat for my own tastes. I longed for an ending like Fear and Loathing, where the characters separated enough so that everyone was free to do their own thing. That feels much more genuine than an ending where someone willingly embraces the square life. I don’t believe it. He’ll be back on heroin in two weeks.

New Films Watched: 50

Films Re-Watched: 2

Total Number of Films: 52

poltergeist Princess Dread Movie Challenge

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