Trainspotting (A Scottish Review) * * * * *


Director: Danny Boyle.
Screenplay: John Hodge.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner, Kevin McKidd, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly MacDonald, Peter Mullan, James Cosmo, Eileen Nicholas, Shirley Henderson, Pauline Lynch, Stuart McQuarrie, Keith Allen, Kevin Allen, Dale Winton, Irvine Welsh.

(As Trainspotting is one of my favourite film’s, I think it’s deserving of a review written in my native Scottish tongue. So here it is. It’s also a little experiment to see if anyone, other than a Scot, can understand what I’m actually saying)

Director Danny Boyle’s braw debut “Shallow Grave” wiz always gonnae be a hard act tae follae but tae attempt an adaptation ae the ‘unfilmable’ Scottish novel “Trainspotting” by Irvine Welsh, seemed like lunacy. Boyle, oan the other haun, captures Welsh’s book brilliantly and even though “Slumdog Millionaire” gathered him a best director Oscar, this stull remains his best film.

It follaes the lives ae a group ah freends fae Auld Reekie as they experience the up’s and doon’s ah life through scag use. Renton (Ewan McGregor) decides tae go clean and rid hissel ae his affliction and his low-life mates but finds that’s easier said than done. Spud (Ewen Bremner) is a bit ae ah dunderheid and far too needy, SickBoy (Jonny Lee Miller) is too sleekit and gallus, Tommy (Kevin McKidd) is scunnert and has just taken some bad direction and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is always crabbit and just a plain fuckin’ nutter. It disnae matter though as Renton still decides tae enters intae makin’ a wan aff drug deal with his auld pals, so as tae make a new life for hissel aw th’gither.

Boyle’s filum has aften been criticised as glorifyin’ drug use. Glorifyin’ drug use? Really? Eejit’s who believe this must huv been watchin’ a differnt filum. The characters involved aw behave despicably. They are responsible for stouth’s, rammie’s and deith’s – includin’ the deith ae a wean; get imprisoned; contract HIV; ruin their lives and others’, aw because they’re junkies and need tae feed their habit. Whit this film has in depth, vibrancy and fun, is the reason it could be mistaken for bein’ pro-drug use but huvin’ these qualities is mair ae a testament tae the filmmakers involved, in making a bleak and depressin’ subject matter, very entertainin’. The characters urr extremely well written (kudos tae writer Welsh) and acted by an ensemble ae excellent actors. It made a star ae Ewan McGregor, who’s character, although likeable – and brilliantly played – is essentially the person responsible fur the doonfaw ae many of the other characters. Notable other performances urr Ewen Bremner as the numptie “Spud”, the maist endearin’ of the group and a character too saft fur ‘is lifestyle. The best ae the bunch though, is Boabby Carlyle as the psychotic “Begbie”, who’s choice ah drug isnae heroin but violence, and he’s just as destructive wae it. He’s a dangerous and highly volatile gadgie and Carlyle perfectly captures the oan-edge feelin’ ae his terrifyin’ unpredictability. It’s an award worthy performance that wiz sadly overlooked. Everythin’ aboot the film reeks ah class. Fae it’s rollickin’ soundtrack, tae the rich, snappy dialogue, wae great characters in hilarious situations and kinetic fast paced direction. This film huz everythin’ gon fur it and stauns as wan ae the finest films ae the 1990′s.

A relentlessly energetic experience that leaves ye cravin’ fur mair, much like the habit ae it’s protaganists.
A pure uncut, Class “A” steesher.

(If this review is indecipherable to anyone go here for the English language version)

Mark Walker


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42 Responses to “Trainspotting (A Scottish Review) * * * * *”

  1. HA! I had no problems following what you wrote here. I guess I can thank our common viking ancestors. :)

    I haven’t seen Trainspotting since it came out but I remember loving it. My strongest memory is of a trip down in the drain…
    I don’t remember it as glorifying drugs, not at all.

    Thanks for the reminder. I need to revisit this. I’m pretty certain it’s still a five star movie to me as well.


    • Haha. That little experiment went off to a flying start. You have an unfair advantage though Jessica. Our ancestry would have crossed paths at some point.

      Yeah, the glorifying of drug use claim was as big a surprise to me as well. Apparently in some countries, this was claimed.

      Great film though. I absolutely love it.


  2. Great review Mark, and a lot of fun to read. Even though my connection to Scottish is only through the most tenuous of ancestries, I could understand it perfectly clearly. Helps to imagine it spoken out loud, mind.

    I haven’t ever seen Trainspotting; caught a little bit of it once, but only a bit. Since it was the toilet scene, it didn’t really make a favorable impression… but I’m going to guess that may not be indicative of the rest of the film?


    • Thanks Morgan. It would probably be more indecipherable if you heard it spoken. We have a gruff way of speaking sometimes.

      You definitely check Trainspotting out though. The toilet scene is a beauty I think but overall the film is very vibrant and brilliantly done. The language may be an issue though. Some dialogue is spoken very harshly but you should still give it a chance.


  3. [...] Walker of Marked Movies reviews the 1996 film Trainspotting, in his native Scottish brogue. It’s surprisingly [...]


  4. Nice review! I managed to get most of it, maybe actually reading Trainspotting trained my reading eye. Man was that a challenge at times!?

    I love Trainspotting, it’s probably one of my favourite films and Begbie is one of my favourite film characters, Robert Carlyle is just brilliant.


    • Cheers man! If you’ve managed the novel then my review would be easy for you. I still struggle reading Welsh’s stuff (He’s from Edinburgh and I’m from Glasgow, we speak very differently) Speaking of which, if your interested, he has a sequel called “Porno” and a recent prequel called “Skag Boys”. It’s all the same characters again.

      Glad you enjoyed it man. This film is undoubtedly amongst my favourites.


      • I’ve heard of both of those but didn’t know they featured the same characters. May well have to check them out.


      • Yeah, they are all parts of the same story. Whether you want to delve into Welsh’s prose again, is another matter but I’ve found them to be excellent pieces of work. Danny Boyle did talk of “Porno” being a possible continuation but he wanted the actors to age naturally before doing so. The problem with that is… the most iconic and fun is Begbie. Carlyle is now in his 50′s.


  5. Enjoyed the review, Mark! Spoken like a true Scottish… Keep posting in these sorta innovative ways, mate!


    • Thanks Mithil. You’re input is always welcome. I may just stick to english reviews of film’s concerning Scotland and then add a scottish alternative i.e. BRAVEHEART, ROB ROY, etc. Not that it makes much difference but it’s fun to do. (I might start to come across as some scottish nationalist though. That’s not my intention)


  6. Haha, I’ll admit I had to go read the “English” version afterwards to make sure I knew what I just read. Great idea for this


  7. Wow, cool review for this one. I have been eager to see this for a while – since it’s on your favorite movies list – so can’t wait.


  8. Brilliant review Mark, it had me laughing all the way through! I haven’t seen Trainspotting for a good ten years, but the two scenes that stick in the mind are Renton’s cold turkey and his dive into the toilet. It’s such an iconic film and I might check it out again soon.


    • Cheers Andy. I wasn’t sure if many could have made sense of it but it seems to be quite legible to a lot of people. I think this film has some great scenes: the ones you mention and Spud shitting his bed sheets as his girlfriends mother pulls them out of his hands at the breakfast table. Splat!!! Hilarious. Begbie is also a character I couldn’t get enough of.


  9. Woo hoo!! I actually got most of it, I think I’ve been listening to Gerry a wee bit too much :D I just picture him reading this review to me w/ his dreamy accent, he..he.. do you sound like him Mark, I don’t know if there are different Scottish accent, I’d imagine just like English, there might be variations?

    In any case, I think some movies that depict overt drug use often get criticized for ‘glorifying it.’ I could see how Boyle intended this as more of a cautionary tale though.


    • Haha. He wouldn’t sound quite like this. It would be close but a few of the words are rarely spoken by lowland Scots – “Stouth’s” “Dieth’s” but most of it is fairly accurate for a Glaswegian/Paisley lad. You’re right though, there are differences with the accents like most regional places. In Edinburgh, the accent is quite different from Glasgow. In fact, there is a bit of a dislike for each other.


      • Ah that’s what I figure. So you’re originally from Glasgow right? So would your accent be closer to GB’s then instead of folks from Edinburgh? I always thought that Ewan McGregor’s accent sounds a bit different from Butler, but McAvoy sounds like the younger version of GB when he was just starting out. I saw an interview from 1999 I think and his accent was sooo thick, I LOVE that. I think he’s starting to lost it now :(


      • Yeah, I come from the same place as Butler, McAvoy, Robert Carlyle, Peter Mullan and Kelly McDonald. It is often said that Butler comes from Paisley but by his own admission, he originally came from Glasgow. Paisley is a town right next to Glasgow though and both speak the same anyway. These are places on the West Coast, where as the East Coast is Edinburgh and sound quite different from us. McGregor is actually from Perth which is East Coast again but further North. Your right though, Butler does seem to be getting an American twang to his accent. It’s normally always thought that the Scottish accent is too hard to get rid of. Just look at Sean Connery, every accent he done was Scottish ;-)


  10. HAHAH Love it!!

    So funny reading in a Scottish Accent. I think I am ready to watch this again now. I saw it far too often when I was in my early twenties and mixing with people who were into the same types of thing on show in the film. It freaked me out for a long time after, when I cleaned up.

    But I reckon I could watch it again now.

    Thanks Man


  11. Great post, man! Didn’t understand a thing, though! HAHA thanks for posting an English version too! ;)


  12. Hahaha, awesome stuff! Nicely done, and a great movie, too!


  13. Great stuff here Mark! Loved what you did with the review and it also made me think of how great this flick really is. Gets you scared of heroin after all.


  14. sanclementejedi Says:

    Great film, pro drug use? I know I wanted to shoot up after watching it, in the hopes a dead baby would crawl across the ceiling or i could dive head first into a filthy toliet. :-)

    I did not have too much trouble reading your review, well at least not as much as I had when, I attempted to read Finnegans Wake.


    • Hey Adam, great to see you man. Yeah pro drug use was a claim to this film. Although admittedly it came primary from George W. Bush. I suppose that says it all really? ;-) I absolutely love it but then it’s a film that I have a lot of claims to fame with. I met Robert Carlyle and Peter Mullan; my friend appeared in the dance music scene and I ended up in quite a viscous punch-up with one the guys who interview Spud for a job. (Scotsmen eh?)


      • sanclementejedi Says:

        Nice I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall, or baby on the ceiling to see that dust up ;-)


      • Haha! Yeah man, let’s just say blood was shed. I didn’t realise at the time though, until I watched the film again. It kind of took me aback. He’s an asshole in the film and all I can say is… The casting agent knew their stuff. ;-)


  15. This. Is. Awesome.

    Fantastic way to do the review. Just like the film, I didn’t understand it at first, but a couple paragraphs in, I got used to it.

    Welcome to the LAMB! Hope to see you on the boards over there.


    • Thanks very much Pat. Yeah, this was a little experiment that seemed to go down fairly well. A lot more people understood it than I thought. Cheers for stopping by man and I agree, I hope to be more involved in the LAMB very soon.


  16. Probably among the better book to film adaptations. I agree it does a good job of showing the horrors of drug use, recovery is hellish and the alternative is death.


    • I totally agree Amanda. How Boyle actually managed to adapt the book is beyond me. It was deemed ‘unfilmable’ but he done a great job. He had been pondering over the years adapting the sequel “Porno” which focuses more on the character of Sick Boy. I’d love to see that getting done. Here’s hoping…


  17. Haha, fun review, I got most of it! :) Love the movie and the novel too, despite the fact it’s quite different from the film. To date it remains my favorite movie by Boyle I much prefer his older movies than the stuff he has been shooting lately.


    • I totally agree, Boyle’s earlier film’s were far better. Shallow Grave is another good one. I liked Slumdog but it was a bit overrated I think. Glad you managed to understand. This review went down better than I expected.


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