“You’re a tourist in your own youth!” shouts a now-middle-aged Sick Boy to Renton about halfway through Boyle’s largely successful Trainspotting follow up. It’s all too relatable. We’re all tourists here, revelling in the return of the familiar. Lucky for us, Boyle’s smart enough to do some tone-tweaking to keep things fresh. The whole gang are back. Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewan Bremner) and Begby (Robert Carlyle), alongside a handful of welcome extras - that’s a given. It’s the film’s themes and story that make or break things here.
After robbing his best mates of £17,000 following a lucrative scag deal at the end of T1, red-eyed junkie Renton chose life and dropped off the radar. However when an unexpected life event compels him to return to Edinburgh - and the mates he betrayed twenty years earlier - he’s forced to make amends and evaluate what choosing life really entails in the long-run. The transition’s not an easy one though, and while some fractured friendships can be salvaged, some are more than a little eager to keep old wounds open.
At times, T2 Trainspotting can leave you feeling a little like a junkie yourself: forever chasing glimpses of that feeling you got watching the original. Boyle knows this all too well though and teases you throughout with snippets. A revamped Lust for Life here, material from part one there. Just a minute of old footage can be seen in total but its careful placement makes it feel far more substantial and ingrained.
Enough of the old though, T2 Trainspotting is a different beast entirely. It has to be for it to work, and where part one was about the recklessness of youth, part two takes aim at sober reflection and how the choices we make impact your past, future and identity as a whole. Perhaps the biggest surprise the film has to offer is how emotional and touching it is. Watching Renton reconnect with his roots - arguably all he has left at this point in his life - and try to make amends with his childhood friends and himself is compelling stuff.
At its core though T2 Trainspotting is a film about friendship, nostalgia and optimism, complete with a kick ass soundtrack and the best use of weaponised IRN BRU you’re likely to see on screen anytime soon. It’s a satisfying watch. Last time the gang chose heroin as their drug of choice. This time they choose life.
T2 Trainspotting is out now.