Berlinale 2017: Boyle's 'T2 Trainspotting' is a Nostalgic Kick in the Ass
by Alex Billington
February 10, 2017
The boys are back in town. After 20 years, writer/director Danny Boyle has reunited the four crazy kids from Trainspotting for the sequel - titled T2: Trainspotting. This film isn't so much of a reboot or remake or another wild story of drug trips, as it is a much more somber, sober follow-up looking at how much life has changed since they were young and full of life and didn't give a shit about anything. This film plays heavily on nostalgia, which makes sense considering the first film is so iconic, and yet still has so much to say about life and where it takes us and the dreams we stop chasing. It's a somewhat sad look at how much real life sucks and getting old sucks and things just aren't the same anymore. Where are drugs when we need them?
The four old friends are back: Ewan McGregor as Renton, Ewen Bremner as Spud, Jonny Lee Miller as Sick Boy, and Robert Carlyle as Begbie. Each one of them seems to be further away from where they expected, yet thankfully they're not the junkies they once were. Drugs do tempt them, but only when shit gets really bad. The story focuses mostly on Spud and Renton, with Sick Boy (aka "Simon") helping push the plot along playing both sides. Begbie's involvement is the most confusing, I never understood his intentions. Of course, there is a women at the center of it - Veronika - played by newcomer Anjela Nedyalkova. She isn't as impressive as Kelly Macdonald's Diane from the original, but she does mess with everyone this time.
T2 is one of those rare sequels that is able to actually look back at and acknowledge the original/first film, and yet still have something unique and interesting to say itself. It's not all about looking back, it's also a timely look at how things are different as you grow up, and how looking back is not always the best thing to do. Boyle carefully handles the nostalgia, splicing in moments from the original at just the right time, and giving us that taste of what the past was like as a reminder of where we are now, today. This sequel may not be as memorable nor is it as iconic or as stylish as the original (there isn't an unforgettable toilet scene) but it's still an exciting film from Danny Boyle. And it will still give you a good kick in the ass like the first one.
There are a few aspects of T2 Trainspotting that don't work well, but overall it's an enjoyable and engaging follow-up, if not a bit depressing. The more I think about it, the more I realize that depression is necessary - it's part of the feeling of nostalgia. It's a tricky feeling, because there's excitement, but there's also regret; all those thoughts about how great it was then and how it's no longer that great anymore. Nonetheless, I am still impressed by Danny Boyle's films and how he handles each one differently than anything he has made before. This is technically Boyle's first sequel and thankfully he doesn't make it feel like your typical sequel. The music selection balances everything in the film, and it ends on the perfect note - with Renton dancing.
Alex's Berlinale 2017 Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing