Trainspotting goes off Netflix in two days. Should you watch it?

So Netflix does its routine deal of removing and adding shows in order to well create space and honor contracts of course. So one of the movies leaving Netflix, among many others, on 1 Feb, 2017 will be Trainspotting and I wondered if I should watch it. 

I stumbled upon the link a couple of days ago and thought to myself maybe I should get around to watching it. I decided to go for it and here are some of my reasons: one being that a long time ago, perhaps it still is, but Trainspotting, the book by Irvine Welsh, was on a reading list in high school. At that time, I chose Captain Corelli's Mandolin and the Great Gatsby over it. Literature over language the choice was during my A levels. So missed opportunity then. Second being I tried to watch the movie but the content was a bit too explicit for me at that time. So I switched it off.  Is it still too much for my brain? Have I not seen worse, more horrifying and revolting things? I probably have. My definitions have changed a lot since. 

Fast forward five years later, I decided to give it a shot. See what the fuss was all about! 



Good decision. This particular scene made it worth my time. I burst out laughing. 
"Can't even find a decent culture to be colonized by!" I bet so many former colonies, including the one I come from, cracked up at that jibe. 

Directed by Danny Boyle (the same dude who is to blame for the confusion about what India is really like), Trainspotting is a satirical look at the substance abuse that plagued Scottish youth in Edinburgh and Leith in the 1980s. 

"By 1983 you had 3.6 million unemployed. It tells its own story – you've got a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands. The government was basically creating demand", say Mikey to the reporters at the Guardian about the period in time that Boyle's portraying in the film. In his defense Boyle did portray a large number of the issues of the 80s fairly accurately- joblessness, surplus of cheap heroin, Scots feeling like second class citizen and the idea of moving to London for better prospects. All of these social issues have been woven into the film and subtly commented on. Although some would argue that the film has made the youth who were involved look "badass" and "cool" and to some extent  I would agree. For the most part, the film sympathizes with the protagonists. Given the context, the conditions they live in and the limited knowledge the people around them have, its depressing how the story ends. 

Large themes aside, the plot is inspired by basic and fairly commonplace incidences if you are between the ages of 15 and perhaps 35. You know someone or a someone you know knows someone who is so heavily involved with substance abuse and they know exactly what the movie is talking about because it happened to them (even if its by the "its a small world/seven degrees of separation deal). The plot is also about friendships that are as dependent as the next hit, as fragile as a junkie's mind sober and as vicious as the origins of this addiction. 

The movie opens with fast talking Mark Renton who is running at full pace into your face and talking about how success and material hoarding go hand-in-hand when you choose 'life' and all that it has to offer. Renton is a far cry from being the hero of the movie. He has all of the character traits your parents spend hours and perhaps even large sums of money keeping you from developing them. He is a junkie in search of his next hit. But somehow he is also what holds the story together. His troubles, highs, lows and anxieties are shared by the other characters in the plot. Meanwhile the heroine is an under age school girl who makes an appearance somewhere in the middle and then at end of the movie but somehow remains a vital character and makes for the most reliable narrator when compared to the others in the story. She also has a ginormous pop-art painting in her bedroom, so brownie points for being a cultured heroine, I must add. 


However Renton is also the reason I continued to watch the film. His story had piqued my interest since he was definitely the lesser evil and could be saved, wanted to be saved or so it looked like. Mark Renton, played by Ewan McGregor, a Scottish born himself (and yes the same man who plays Obi-wan in the Star Wars trilogy of the 2000s) does a good job of being the edgy, naive and constantly jittery junkie who acts as the glue that holds his group together. He is also the only who tries to give up heroin and start a better life. And for that reason you want to support him, you want to hear him out, you want to give him that moment of self-doubt before hating on him altogether. It would have certainly been harder if Sick Boy (the blond haired chap who becomes a pimp eventually and plans a heist) or Spud (who gets jail time for theft and addiction) or god forbid Begbie (not a junkie but constantly stabbing people and instigating pub brawls) or even Tommy (who starts of clean and ends up with AIDS) had been the narrators of the story. 

The opening sequence is accompanied by none other than Iggy Pop's Lust for Life. In order to generate the rock 'n' roll era of the 80s in the film Boyle puts tracks by Blondie, Primal Scream, Blur, Lou Reed and several other artists from the period to keep the tempo upbeat and even convey the high that comes from 'taking a hit'. It was used in just the right amounts so the audience feel connected to the plot at all times; it makes them feel like they are inside the heads of the protagonists and so constantly high and/or looking to get high themselves. The upbeat tempo keeps your heartbeat racing and your palms gripping the edge of your seat instead of cradling you pillow. Its hard and unfair to comment on the technical aspects of the film since the filming was done on equipment from the 90s which is very different from all the hi-tech HD we have today. 


Through Renton, a viewer is given, a very door-wide open look into what its like to be so addicted to heroin, to share needles, to cook your next hit, to steal for your next hit, to knowingly (or maybe unknowingly in that era) contract AIDs and even watch people close to you die as collateral to your addiction. Maybe it teaches you a lesson, maybe it serves as educational or maybe it inspires you to write a blogpost, who knows. 

So what is the verdict? 

You should watch it because not only does it go off  Netflix pronto but also the sequel just released in the UK. It should be in the US by March and worldwide soon after. However be warned, some of the stuff is not for the faint-hearted. But really, those are my only reasons for recommending the film to you. Its an interesting period film, its hilarious and if you're really into any of the actors then this is a good peak into the early stages of their acting career. 

And after you watch the film, if you are still scratching your head about the title. Here is a pretty good explanation for it which also sums up the movie well. 


---x---

P.S. 

Sick boy is Sherlock on the CBS' show Elementary 
Tommy is Dr Hunt in Grey's Anatomy 
Begbie is Shade in Eragon

Yu-huh! 

---x---

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