The dynamic world of addiction and recovery
T2 Trainspotting has been one of the most anticipated sequels in the British film industry, not only because Trainspotting was considered a cult-classic, but because we wonder: how can it continue? We last saw Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) in 1996 betraying Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlisle), by escaping with £16,000 from a heroin deal. The message was clear. Mark was starting a new life, free from heroin and the destructive environment surrounding him and his unruly friends.
Refraining from trouble for 20 years, T2 sees Mark returning to Edinburgh and rekindling old friendships with Sick Boy and Spud. Unfortunately for Mark, it seems that his path might also cross Begbie’s, still raw from the 20-year-old betrayal. Mark quickly returns to his life of trickery and robbery - but this time without the heroin. It becomes obvious very quickly that old habits die hard.
T2 demonstrates that it was not just the heroin that was the problem, but addiction to danger and chaos. This summarises one of the many problems with drug addiction: it's not just abstaining from the drug, it's abstaining from the lifestyle. This culminates in a scene during which the men pay tribute to Tommy and baby Dawn, heroin-related deaths from Trainspotting. They are clearly traumatised by memories, and Mark and Sick Boy try heroin once again. This is in stark contrast to Spud, who, after listening to Mark's advice, begins channelling his ‘addiction’ into something positive: writing.
In terms of cinematography and spirit, T2 lives up to the original. Aided by the revamped yet quirky-as-ever soundtrack and integration of old footage, the film feels highly nostalgic. The characters remain their eccentric selves, and director Danny Boyle returns to the symbolic shots of sordid tower blocks, nightclubs and local pubs filled with the walking dead. He also balances humour and the whirlwind of events without distracting from the devastation of drug abuse.
For professionals in the field of addictions and mental health, T2 provides new insight into the dynamic world of addiction and recovery, adding a sinister and realistic dimension to life after heroin use. In terms of real-life impact, it rings as true as its predecessor in portraying drug use for what it really is: a penetrating yet reversible problem heavily influenced by one's environment. As Mark puts it:
"You are an addict.
If you’re going to be addicted, be addicted to something else...
It’s not getting it out of your body that’s the problem, it’s getting it out of your mind".
- Reviewed by Katie East, PhD Student at the National Addiction Centre, King's College London.
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