Twenty years after the original Trainspotting became an iconic film that helped defined my generation, the characters have returned to show us how choosing life worked out for them. Both films are based on exceptional novels by Irvine Welsh, one of my personal favorite authors. Unlike the movies, the books were not written with so much space between them, which meant there wasn't the typical lapse in continuity that one might expect.
Trainspotting 2 sees the characters aged and still stuck in making wrong choices and struggling with the despair that comes from wasted opportunities. It also deals with the feeling of nostalgia we all have when looking fondly back at our younger years, even when the events from those years weren't always so fond. It examines the bonds of friendship that are developed in those formative years, and explores how they are easily rekindled even after years of absence and bad blood. I often encounter this with my oldest friends. Though years may pass between visits, that time quickly evaporates and it suddenly seems like no time has passed at all. The movie captures that phenomenon wonderfully.
It is certainly not as "hip" or "iconic" as the first film, but doesn't try to be. This is about dealing with the fact that life has set different priorities for us as we grow. It is perhaps best summed up in the comparisons between the opening "Choose life" speech that opens and closes the first movie, and Renton's "Choose life" speech in the new film.
Renton in Trainspotting: "Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?"
Renton in Trainspotting 2: "'Choose life'. 'Choose life' was a well meaning slogan from a 1980's anti-drug campaign and we used to add things to it, so I might say for example, choose... designer lingerie, in the vain hope of kicking some life back into a dead relationship. Choose handbags, choose high-heeled shoes, cashmere and silk, to make yourself feel what passes for happy. Choose an iPhone made in China by a woman who jumped out of a window and stick it in the pocket of your jacket fresh from a South-Asian Firetrap. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and a thousand others ways to spew your bile across people you've never met. Choose updating your profile, tell the world what you had for breakfast and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, desperate to believe that you don't look as bad as they do. Choose live-blogging, from your first wank 'til your last breath; human interaction reduced to nothing more than data. Choose ten things you never knew about celebrities who've had surgery. Choose screaming about abortion. Choose rape jokes, slut-shaming, revenge porn and an endless tide of depressing misogyny. Choose 9/11 never happened, and if it did, it was the Jews. Choose a zero-hour contract and a two-hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and maybe tell yourself that it's better that they never happened. And then sit back and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody's fucking kitchen. Choose unfulfilled promise and wishing you'd done it all differently. Choose never learning from your own mistakes. Choose watching history repeat itself. Choose the slow reconciliation towards what you can get, rather than what you always hoped for. Settle for less and keep a brave face on it. Choose disappointment and choose losing the ones you love, then as they fall from view, a piece of you dies with them until you can see that one day in the future, piece by piece, they will all be gone and there'll be nothing left of you to call alive or dead. Choose your future, Veronika. Choose life."