As Vladimir Nabokov once said: ‘Genius is finding the invisible link between things.’
With the DVD of T2 Trainspotting being released this month, allowing hardcore fans and phenomenon newbies alike to relish in 30+ minutes of unseen footage and cast interviews, the ending to the long-awaited sequel is a hot topic of conversation.
Loosely based on Porno, Irvine Welsh’s sequel to his 1993 novel Trainspotting, director Danny Boyle and original screenwriter John Hodge worked their magic again by fine-combing the novel to cherry-pick scenes for T2 Trainspotting; one such scene being Renton and Simon’s already iconic 1690 scam in an Orange Hall. Mixing choice scenes from Welsh’s sequel with a brand-new plot focussing on nostalgia, masculinity and getting older, Hodge wrote an inventive script which was an instant hit with Boyle and the original cast, Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller.
Although McGregor’s character, Mark Renton, is the lead protagonist of Welsh’s novel and the articulate antihero narrator of Boyle’s hugely successful 1996 film adaptation, the character focalisation shifts slightly in T2 Trainspotting to Bremner’s character, Danny ‘Spud’ Murphy.
A baby-faced old man in a serious long-term relationship with heroin, the initial worry for Spud is that he won’t survive a sequel and those fears are almost realised when the audience sees Spud preparing to take his own life – the first scene in the franchise to be narrated by a character other than Renton. And while Renton has his resourcefulness and a new life in Amsterdam, Simon has a network of scams and a (failing) pub to run, and Begbie has burglaries to commit and unfinished business to take care of, Spud has nothing – nothing except his stories.
Being by no means perfect, Spud has, nevertheless, always been the moral compass of the franchise; the only friend who Renton loved and felt obliged to compensate after his devastating betrayal at the end of Trainspotting because Spud had ‘never hurt anybody’. As the sequel continually poses the question of what will happen to this lovable goof, Hodge’s ingenious twist gives Spud a new lease of (or should I say, ‘lust for’?) life. After spending his time between sauna refurbishments scribbling down stories from his early-twenties, Spud eventually combines them to create makeshift novel to be read by his new friend Veronica and the love of his life and mother of his son, Gail.
The ending of T2 Trainspotting does well to make the audience emotional by revisiting each character and the note they end on, but there is something particularly emotive and special about Gail, portrayed by the brilliant Shirley Henderson, rearranging Spud’s papers after reading and saying, ‘I thought of a title’ – a moment that made even Ewan McGregor get tear up. Combined with the numerous self-reflexive moments alluding to the first film and Welsh’s novels, the lightbulb suddenly clicks on when the audience realises the reason behind Hodge’s ingenious meta references throughout as he implies that Spud represents Irvine Welsh himself.
Talking to The Telegraph in 2015, Welsh said: ‘The game changer was getting seriously addicted to heroin in my early 20s. I didn’t have any money to lose, so for about a year I got into the dark world of scams and multiple giro claims, petty shoplifting and theft. I was constantly borrowing from people and running up debts, and that changes people’s perceptions of you.’
Just as Welsh took heroin, committed benefit fraud and theft, Spud, too, is a heroin addict who forges signatures and was even imprisoned for shoplifting. And as Renton and Simon joke about who in their right mind is going to read Spud’s stories, we smile to ourselves knowing that the whole world will.
Defying Sick Boy’s unifying theory of life which dictates that everyone who has ‘it’ ultimately loses it, the cast and crew of T2 Trainspotting definitely still have it. The conclusion makes the franchise’s down-and-out underdog a star by giving him a creative outlet that could transform his life, refuses to reward Renton for his controversial and arguably amoral behaviour despite the device of first-person narrative largely focussing on him, and brings these characters and relationships full circle.
Whether this analogy, this ‘invisible link’ between Welsh and Spud, was intended by Welsh when writing Spud or completely invented by Hodge when writing the screenplay, T2 Trainspotting’s conclusion is nevertheless a beautiful and truly satisfying ending; the ending that the fans deserved and one that pays tribute to the man who started it all.
What did you think of the T2 Trainspotting ending? Let me know in the comment section below.
Trainspotting Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh is an irreverent and uncompromising portrait of the heroin subculture in Edinburgh. The narrative cycles through a number of different users, pushers, scam-artists, and general hooligans, though it focuses on a core group of five addicts. The novel is essentially the vision of a group of young men who have chosen to drop out of polite society in search of brief, luminous chemical joy.
The novel focuses primarily on Mark Renton, a Leith heroin addict who intermittently tries to kick the junk. He and his fellow addict, Spud, defraud the government of unemployment benefits to fund their habit. They have a mate called Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson, a charming sometime pimp. His illegitimate daughter dies a crib death early in the novel. They also have several non-addict friends: Tommy, a sex-obsessed innocent; Davie, a service-worker; and Begbie, an alcoholic sociopath.
Tommy's girlfriend breaks up with him, and he soon is doing heroin as a way to cope. Meanwhile, Begbie is annoyed that his girl has gotten pregnant, but he rarely has to see her as he is often out of town running drugs in London. Renton, temporarily off junk, accidentally sleeps with a 14-year-old girl, thinking she is an adult. Soon, he and Spud relapse and are caught stealing books to fund their habit. Spud goes to jail, and Renton attempts methadone treatment. He relapses again and overdoses, and his parents force him to quit cold-turkey.
Not long after Renton gets clean, his brother Billy is killed by an IRA bomb in Ulster. Sick of Scotland, he travels down to London, but on a visit home he becomes involved with an acquaintance called Kelly. While Renton is in London, Davie contracts HIV and hatches an elaborate plan to take revenge on the man responsible, eventually killing him. Not long after this, another addict and friend of Renton's named Matty dies, reuniting the junkie coterie of the novel. By this time, Renton and Kelly have parted ways, and he soon decides to move back to Leith.
Back home and relatively clean, Renton is forced to deal with his past, dropping in on his old dealer, now an amputee, and Tommy, who has contracted HIV and seems likely to die. The novel ends with Begbie arranging a heroin deal in London, earning 16,000 pounds for Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, and himself. Renton steals the cash and flees to Amsterdam, ready to start a new life.
The novel is, in the end, a series of loosely connected short stories with a recurring cast of characters. More than telling a single story, it illuminates a whole subculture, giving the reader a sense of the way these groups interact and the stories that survive from their short, manic lives.
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