Literature / Trainspotting

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"Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?"
Renton (the film)

"Still, failure, success, what is it? Whae gies a fuck. We aw live, then we die, in quite a short space ay time n aw. That's it; end ay fuckin story."
Renton (the book)

Trainspotting is a dark and bizarrely written novel by Irvine Welsh, published in 1993, and as many a Rail Enthusiast has probably found out the hard way, has absolutely zip to do with actually looking for trains. Wildly popular, the novel kicked off a two decade long successful writing career.

The story follows a group of young Scottish men who are close friends, and their lives of drinking, sex, family problems, HIV, death, and most of all, heroin addiction. The protagonists are Mark Renton, an on-and-off heroin junkie, and his friends Thomas "Tommy" Laurence, Danny "Spud" Murphy, Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson, and Francis "Franco" Begbie; childhood pals, they are beginning to drift apart. It's all very darkly humorous and then a baby dies. Noted for its cynical and occasionally shocking tone, the novel has been called "the voice of punk, grown up, grown wise and grown eloquent".

Large chunks of the novel are written in heavily accented, stream-of-consciousness style. The initial challenge is to figure out who the main characters are, whose points of view are being shown, which of the dozens of nicknames refer to which people, and what personalities they've got. Because of this, the novel starts out as an incomprehensible trip — but after a few chapters, things start to click and the plot starts to unfold.

It was adapted into a film in 1996 by Danny Boyle, and was the second of three films from the mid nineties directed by Boyle and starring Ewan McGregor, along with Shallow Grave and A Life Less Ordinary. It also features Jonny Lee Miller as Sick Boy, Ewen Bremner as Spud, a scarily emaciated Kevin McKidd as Tommy, Robert Carlyle as Franco Begbie and a youthful Kelly MacDonald as Diane. Allegedly due to a head cold, Kevin McKidd missed being on the iconic poster.

A sequel to the film languished in Development Hell for quite some time, but was finally released in January 2017 as T2 Trainspotting, with the director and main cast returning. The teaser trailer for T2 can be viewed here and the offcial trailer here.

The book has a prequel, Skagboys, which chart the descent of the main characters into drug addiction, violence, crime and defeatism. The sequel, Porno, catches up with them ten years later and follows mainly Sick Boy and Renton as they work through their issues with each other while producing a pornographic movie. Together, the three novels form the Leith trilogy of addiction, brutality and soul which has come to define Welsh's output. And in 2016, Welsh wrote The Blade Artist which focuses on an apparently reformed Begbie in the present day.


Provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abbey Road Crossing: When the lads go to London for the deal in the film, they cross the road to the hotel in this manner.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Sick Boy has black hair in the book. In the film, he's blond.
    • Renton has ginger hair in the book. In the film, he has short, cropped hair.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the film, Tommy's last name is changed from Laurence to MacKenzie.
  • Adapted Out: Most of the group (most noticeably Matty, Davie and Second Prize) don't appear in the film, due to the book having Loads and Loads of Characters.
    • Most signficantly, Mark's older brother, who in the book serves in the Army until he is killed by terrorists in Northern Ireland, is absent from the film.
  • The Alcoholic: Second Prize, to the point where even his drug addicted friends are embarrassed to be in his company.
  • Am I Right?: Used by Diane:
    "Do you find that this approach usually works, or, let me guess, you've never tried it before. In fact, you don't normally approach girls, am I right?"
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: At the celebration dinner following the suspension of his sentence, Mark Renton's mother: tells Begbie and Sick Boy all about her periods. She then pinches Renton's cheek and calls him her wee bairn, gleefully informing Begbie and Sick Boy that he hates being called that; then tops it all off by singing Mark his former 'favorite song,' a little ditty about momma's little baby loving his shortbread. Sick Boy joins in. It's enough to make Renton wish he'd gone to prison instead of Spud.
  • Ambiguously Bi / Everyone Is Bi: All the main male characters that are in relationships are in relationships with women, but they all also seem to be quite physically affectionate with each other, at least when they're high. Except Begbie. Renton speculates at one point that human beings are bi by default, and it's social pressure that causes most to conform to being heterosexual. The film celebrates the idea by starting off with a gay snog.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Begbie in the film. Robert Carlyle played him as a closeted homosexual whose bursts of rage stemmed partially from his fear of being outed, and Word of God agreed with the interpretation. When a girl he's getting frisky with turns out to be a man he amazingly doesn't attack the person in question, which at a glance seems very out of character. It's also insinuated with a scene in which Begbie makes Renton put a cigarette in his mouth, which is charged with sexual tension.
  • Artistic Licence - Geography: The scene where Diane and Rents come out of the nightclub? Filmed outside the Volcano, in Glasgow. The characters are based in Edinburgh, which is fifty miles away. The taxi fare must have been ruinous.
  • Author Tract: Renton's rant against the British involvement in Northern Ireland and Unionism.
  • Ax-Crazy: Francis Begbie. He gets physically aroused from violence and hurts people for no reason. In the book, this is a result of both his own sadistic aggression and due to his friends "painting him as the ultimate psychopath" so they'll look cooler by hanging out with him. Interestingly, Renton remembers how Begbie was much more mellow and easy-going as a teenager (when he wasn't yet the toughest guy in the neighbourhood).
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Until they die.
  • Bar Brawl: In the movie, Begbie starts one by tossing his empty pint glass off the balcony to the bar below, and shatters on a young woman's head. Slamming his knife on the table and rubbing his hands together with glee, he goes downstairs and declares that nobody is to leave the bar until the culprit is found. When asked by the girl's boyfriend who he is, Begbie simply kicks him in the balls, starting a massive brawl.
    • The scene is slightly different in the book—Begbie begins to furiously interrogate the entire bar, playing detective and shouting at the bartender to call the police. The glassed man's mate sets off the brawl by punching another man. After the massive bar brawl is over, he and Begbie together kick another man to a pulp, and he cheerfully extends his hand to Begbie. Who promptly kicks him in the groin and punches his face in.
  • Batter Up!: In the novel, Sick Boy makes use of one to kill a dog who had attacked its owner (who had done so because Sick Boy shot him in the balls with an air rifle). He lampshades its use, noting that nobody on the east side of the Atlantic ocean keeps a baseball bat for playing baseball.
  • Berserk Button: Begbie has myriads of them.
  • Better Than Sex: Several of the heroin junkies praise their drug of choice as being better than sex. Significantly, such comparisons are what lead Tommy to take up the habit after his girlfriend dumps him, with devastating consequences.
    Allison: It beats any meat injection. That beats any fucking cock in the world!
  • Bi the Way: Mark ends up hooking up with a few men over the course of the novel, and doesn't see it as a big deal, although he feels more comfortable with women.
    • Mark's flings with men are absent from the film, but the relaxed attitude towards same sex relations remains in place, making him Ambiguously Bi in the film.
  • Big Bad: Francis Begbie.
  • Black and Gray Morality: At least among the major characters. Some of their family members are good, responsible citizens.
  • Black Comedy: Lots and lots, but with a few Dude, Not Funny! moments to induce Mood Whiplash at points.
  • Bluff The Imposter: At a job interview in the book (and in a Deleted Scene in the film), Renton claims to have gone to a posh secondary school, which the interviewer also went to. The interviewer then asks him if a particular teacher is still teaching there. Renton, sensing a trap, simply laughs and says "God, you're taking me back now!"
  • Book Ends: Renton's "choosing life" speeches at the beginning and end.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Renton's narrations in the film, especially when he first encounters Dianne and narrates his own thoughts in the third person.
  • Break the Cutie: Tommy, a positive and well-meaning character, is completely and utterly destroyed by heroin over the course of the second act.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: The dealer in London carries one. The filmmakers discuss this trope in the DVD commentary.
  • Britain Is Only London: Over the top montage of tourist sights when Renton moves to London.
  • Britpop: The film was released at the height of Britpop and fittingly had a number of Britpop artists contribute to the soundtrack.
  • Broken Ace: Second Prize.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Renton offhandedly mentions a former friend who he'd dropped after it became common knowledge he'd been shagging his sister.
  • Bump Into Confrontation: Don't make Begbie spill his pint.
  • Butt-Monkey: Spud!
  • Byronic Hero: Both Renton and Sick Boy qualify, though Sick Boy is more towards the villainy end of the spectrum.
  • The Can Kicked Him: Nobody dies in them, but toilets provide the setting for some of the movie's nastiest scenes, and at one point Begbie beats a man in a pub toilet until his blood mixes with the urine.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: Diane. Subverted in the fact that Renton has no idea she's underage when she picks him up (out of uniform, natch) at a club.
  • Chained to a Railway: The teaser trailer for the film, even though it doesn't happen. Also has Gallows Humour in spades.
  • Character Development: The novel is about, in part, Mark's development from heroin addict into the mature adult that appears in Porno.
    • The first time around, both book- and movie-wise, Dianne is portrayed as a sex-crazed, club-hopping teenager; by the time Porno comes up she's toned her recreational drug use down and she matured into a pretty well-adjusted university student, working on her thesis and being more than capable to hold her own in a conversation. She still loves to party, though.
    • The prequel focuses on Sick Boy's descent into villainy, showing how he developed from a Lovable Rogue to a borderline-sociopath.
    • By the time of Porno, Second Prize has embraced sobriety (not that he had much of a choice) and religion, having distanced himself from the lads after getting ripped off by Renton.
    • Begbie has gone through some by The Blade Artist, becoming more well-read, amicable and accepting of others, though his violent, psychopathic tendencies and urges - apparently stemming from what American analysts diagnose as intermittent explosive disorder - tend to resurface.
  • Chaotic Stupid: Begbie strays into this territory frequently, given that he insists not only on being a violent and often sadistic brawler, but often doing it within plain sight of people who are liable to call the police or remember his face. At one point, after kicking in a man's head and accidentally slicing open Spud's hand, he stands right in front of the bar and various shocked witnesses and demands that Renton take at least a minute to "bring me doon a fukken ciggareh" before even considering leaving — or taking his injured friend to a hospital. He's also been known to attack bystanders for eating chips too loudly. Neutral Axe-Crazy might be a better description of his alignment, come to think of it.
  • Character Filibuster: Renton's "Choose life" rant.
    • Serves as an Ironic Echo as this is what Renton states he intends to do with the money he stole from his friends.
  • Character Focus: Trainspotting is centered mostly on Renton, whilst Porno shifts the focus to Sick Boy. Skagboys has the two sharing the limelight.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: This is made all the more obvious in the film that was based on this book.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Begbie is known to carry a variety of home-made weapons about him, such as sharpened knitting needles. Renton suspects that he's actually not a very good fighter in a "square go."
  • Comforting the Widow: Spud's mother receives this from Renton and his parents, but Begbie twists it into a rant that blames her for her son's imprisonment. In the book, Renton says: "There were no sacred cows for Begbie. Not even old ones from Leith whose laddie had just gone to prison."
    • Additionally, Mark puts in a great deal of effort comforting his brother Billy's widow immediately after his funeral.
  • Complaining About Things You Haven't Paid For: Begbie has just robbed a jewelers at gunpoint and the jewelery he's stolen is not as valuable as he thought.
    Supposed to be fucking solid silver. It's fucking garbage! Those young couples investin' all their fucking hopes in that stuff and all...
  • Composite Character: Several in the film. Justified in that the book had such a huge cast that they had to be trimmed for the film.
    • Matty's death is given to Tommy in the film, whilst Spud inherits some of Second Prize's character flaws. The unfortunate incident involving Davie Mitchell is also given to Spud in the film.
  • Contemptible Cover: Look up the cover to Porno. Go ahead.
  • Country Matters: Probably one of the most frequently occurring words in the dialogue. A particularly notable example (almost Lampshading?) occurs when Mark accuses Sick Boy of being a "sexist cunt", following which Sick Boy points out the absurdity of using the words "sexist" and "cunt" in the same sentence.
  • Crapsack World: Renton and his pals use drugs as an escape from the drudgery and misery of mundane life. The dives they shoot up in are, as you'd expect, completely disgusting and filthy, but the rest of Edinburgh isn't exactly portrayed as a cultural beacon either. In fact, the whole place is bleak, grey, and blighted with urban decay.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Irvine Welsh cameos as Renton's dealer Mikey Forrester.
    • Screenwriter John Hodge plays a policeman in the opening scene.
    • Producer Andrew Macdonald cameos as the man who Renton tries to sell the "Victorian Townhouse" to.
  • Crotch-Grab Sex Check: Begbie chats up a woman at a club and takes her to his car to get to know her better. After 'inspecting the goods' he finds out she is a transvestite and kicks her out of his ride.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Two soundtrack albums were released with various pop, techno and rock songs on it that helped its success.
  • Cute Kitten: Depressingly Inverted/Subverted with Tommy's death.
  • Demoted to Extra: Gav Temperley had a big part in the book. In the film, he's in the background of a couple of scenes, and tells Renton how Tommy died.
  • Descent into Addiction: Not the major characters, most of whom are addicts at the outset of the story, but several minor characters undergo this, most notably Tommy, who is introduced to heroin by Renton after his girlfriend dumps him and ultimately contracts HIV.
  • Despair Event Horizon: It's implied that, for all his faults, Sick Boy is still a pretty decent guy. Until his daughter dies of starvation. What Renton says about this afterwards provides the page quote for this trope: "It wasn't just the baby that died that day; something inside Sick Boy was lost and never returned."
    • Tommy goes past the Horizon after his breakup with Lizzy. It doesn't end well.
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research: Middle-finger gestures are generally censored in America, but the poster in which Begbie gives a V-sign is shown without any problems.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Tommy has "the virus" but never knew he'd gone "full-blown". He officially died of toxoplasmosis, an opportunistic infection that attacks immuno-compromised people. Renton had to get tested for something that he may have also contracted, but fortunately for him his test came up negative. Clearly his disease was AIDS but it's never used in direct reference to him. The HIV virus is brought up during Renton's Going Cold Turkey nightmare, but at no point in the film is it stated directly that Tommy has, or that Renton doesn't have AIDS.
    • Though the phrase "AIDS Junkie scum" spray painted on Tommy's door might have been a clue.
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: "The Worst Toilet In Scotland".
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Begbie beats a man round the head with his pool cue. The man's crime? Eating his crisps loudly. He later glasses a man in a pub for spilling his pint on him.
  • Dramatic Ellipsis: In the movie Renton, while narrating his own inner thoughts in the third person, says them out loud. "Dot, Dot, DOT."
  • Drugs Are Bad: Seemingly averted at first, but ultimately played straight. Renton gives an articulate and fierce defence of his lifestyle in the beginning, and the gang seem to be living fast and carefree at times, but tragedy and horror strike often. Ultimately Renton leaves the life.
    • Renton's mother is on Valium, making her, as Renton sardonically observes, also a drug addict, albeit in a more socially acceptable way.
  • Dysfunction Junction: It's an Irvine Welsh story, so the characters consist of junkies, psychos, losers and deadbeats.
  • Embarrassing Damp Sheets: Spud wishes he had only wet the bed. What he did was... worse.
  • Erudite Stoner: Sick Boy.
    Renton He's always been lacking in moral fibre.
    Swanny He knows a lot about Sean Connery.
    Renton That's hardly a substitute.
    • Sick Boy definitely cultivates the image, but it is Renton (at least in the book) that is perhaps closer to actually being this, constantly ruminating on his views on the world, quickly getting a grasp at psychoanalytical ideas when he is being examined and having an understanding on the overall ideas of Kierkegaard. Spud in the book is a failed example of this, constantly saying vaguely coherent rants on the importance of love and taking care of animals. However, he deserves credit for his astute observations regarding other characters, and is fairly well read despite some of it being beyond his comprehension e.g. Crime and Punishment.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The scene at the beginning of the film introduces the five leads acting out their Establishing Character Moments as part of a football game: Sick Boy fouls, and shouts "What?" as if trying to look innocent; Begbie dropkicks one of the opposing team-members, wearing a delighted grin as he gets up; Spud acts as goalie, completely misses an incoming ball and gets yelled at by his own team; Tommy gets caught in a corner and tries valiantly to escape without performing a foul; finally, Renton gets hit in the head with the ball and collapses- all the while narrating sarcastically.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Begbie in the sequel. He's spent most of The '90s in prison and everyone has mobile phones when he gets out, much to his chagrin.
  • Five-Man Band: The group form a loose, somewhat-villainous version of this.
  • Flat "What.": When Begbie goes picking a fight in a restaurant just for fun and a massive Bar Brawl suddenly erupts, the rest of his fellow drug addicts just stand on the balcony overlooking all this mayhem with this reaction on their faces.
  • Flipping the Bird: The poster includes Begbie giving the V-sign to the viewer.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: The film's poster features Begbie delivering a V-sign, which is a vulgar gesture in Britain. The poster certainly wouldn't have been displayed so prominently in America if he were giving a middle finger.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Renton is The Cynic, Sick Boy is The Realist, Spud is The Optimist, Begbie is The Apathetic and Tommy, who relies on others for validation, is The Conflicted.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Renton is phlegmatic, Sick Boy is melancholic/choleric, Spud is sanguine, Begbie is extremely choleric and Tommy is leukine.
  • Freudian Excuse: In the book, Begbie gets some last-minute characterization as it's explained that his father (a derelict alcoholic) abandoned him as a child. Paralleling this is the fashion in which Begbie treats his own children.
  • Friendly Enemy: In contrast to his friendship with Renton, Sick Boy has this mode of interaction with Begbie. He views Franco as a crass, vicious thug and tenapenny muscle for more dangerous scams. On Begbie's part, he's morally disgusted with Sick Boy's pimping and heroin related activities, but admires his scheming ways otherwise as it brings in money. Renton hates them both when they decide to socially gang up on him, stealing both female attention and parental affection.
    It nauseates Renton to see Begbie and Sick Boy playing the great mates, as all they usually generally do is to get on each other's tits.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Begbie clearly terrifies his "friends" with his Hair-Trigger Temper. When Renton flees his former lifestyle, Begbie tracks him down and becomes The Thing That Would Not Leave.
  • Friend to Psychos: They don't exactly have to dispose of bodies for Begbie, but his so-called mates are forced into justifying his psychotic fits and bizarre actions as a cowardly form of insurance against his variable temper.
  • Fun with Subtitles:
    • In the film, a scene set in a club uses a more realistic audio balance of club music and the characters talking, and as such features subtitles included to let the audience know what they're saying.
    • Also, if you watch the movie with the subtitle track, certain lines of dialogue have been changed to sound somewhat cynical. The best example is "the worst place in London" being subtitled as "one of London's most desirable properties".
  • Funetik Aksent:
    • The book uses this trope so extensively it take most people several chapters before they can fully understand anything. While there are a few chapters narrated in standard English (from a third person omniscient perspective), most are from a various first person points of view and written in that character's particular brand of thick Edinburgh Scottish.
    • Several characters, particularly Spud, not only have incredibly thick Scottish accents but also use odd slang and expressions and verbal tics making chapters from his perspective particularly difficult to follow.
  • Gambit Roulette: Used and lampshaded in the novel's Bad Blood chapter, where the HIV-positive character Davie pulls this on Alan Venters, the man who gave the HIV to the former's girlfriend by raping her, thus leading to Davie's own contraction of the virus. His plan is to make friends with a dying Venters, so that he is allowed to visit him in hospital, and also seduces the mother of the rapist's only son so that one day she may trust him enough to let him babysit for her. When this happens, Davie drugs the child with a sleep-inducing substance and takes pictures of him, making it look like he violently raped and murdered the boy. Then he shows the pictures to Venters on his deathbed and suffocates him with a pillow, thus filling his last moments in life with immeasurable suffering.The Plan depended greatly on random chance (most significantly on Venters staying alive long enough for all the pieces to fall into place), a fact that Davie is well aware of.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Renton tries to break free of his heroin addiction this way, but doesn't go all the way.
    • After his overdose his parents lock him in his room and force Cold Turkey on him.
  • Good Times Montage: In the film, there's a cool montage when Spud, Renton, and Sick Boy start using heroin again. Predictably, though, the good times don't last.
  • Groin Attack: Renton does this to a pitbull with an air rifle.
    For a vegetarian, Mark, you're a fucking EVIL shot.
    • Begbie also tends to fight dirty.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Francis Begbie is almost as dangerous to his "mates" as he is to everyone else. Renton even outlines a number of Begbie's myths that the gang must play along with, so as not to get beaten up.
  • Hallucinations: When Renton goes Cold Turkey, he experiences several heroin-induced (and heroin-withdrawal-induced) hallucinations.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tommy and Second Prize. Renton and Sick Boy prior to Porno. They reaffirm their friendship by the end of T2: Trainspotting, in contrast to the ending of Porno, where Renton burns his bridges with Sick Boy for good after finding out he intended to sic Begbie on him all along.
  • Home Porn Movie: Renton makes off with one made by Tommy and Lizzie. Hilarity does not ensue.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: In the novel, a girl jobbing in a restaurant is hit on by some drunken English Jerkass tourists. She retaliates by putting all kinds of squicky stuff in their food, from blood-soaked tampons to urine.
  • Idiosyncratic Chapter Naming: Some of the more chilling heroin problems are narrated by Renton in, well, Junk Dilemmas No. 63-67, with italics for emphasis. He only manages to get up to Straight Dilemmas No. 1 by the end of the novel, although his chapters in Porno could easily have been named as such.
    • More significantly, each grouping of chapters juxtaposes Renton's long and hard transition from a full time junky to a reforming addict against his need to leave Leith behind: Kicking, Relapsing, Kicking Again, Blowing It, Exile, Home and Exit.
  • Improbable Weapon User / Improvised Weapon: As an accomplished brawler, Begbie makes plenty of use of these. The book mentions that he has an arsenal of Stanley knives, knuckledusters, sharpened screwdrivers, and knitting needles (because there's less chance they get stuck in the victim's ribcage). Renton states that he does not actually rate Begbie as a terribly strong fighter without his blades.
  • In Da Club: Well, sort of, since there are two clubbing scenes, but it's subverted. The music isn't always banging, the lighting isn't always perfect, and not everyone is attractive, stylishly dressed, or having fun. Least of all Renton.
  • Indirect Kiss: Near the end of the film, Begbie orders Renton to give him a cigarette, and just stands there waiting with his mouth open until Renton puts it in his own mouth to light it, and then puts it in Begbie's. While this could just be a display of dominance and control (which is well within Begbie's character,) Word of God is that they imagined Begbie as an Armored Closet Gay, so this trope was certainly intended.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted when Sick Boy's baby daughter Dawn dies of starvation and neglect.
  • Informed Attribute:
    • An in-universe example: Begbie fondly says of Mark: "This is a useless bastard; but he's goat style. A man ay wit. A man ay class. A man not unlike my good self." Immediately following this, Mark snarkily narrates: "Begbie always constructed imaginary qualities in his friends, then shamelessly claimed them for himself." He also notes that in spite of Begbie's fearsome reputation, he's not that good at fighting without using a weapon.
    • The sleazy, drug-dealing, pimping Sick Boy is supposedly an extremely disgusting human being, but compared to Francis Begbie and Alan Venters, he comes off as just a lovable rogue. He does become a lot worse in the sequel. He's not above blackmailing city officials and pimping out girls for his own ends.
      • Subverted when you look at the trilogy overall. Sick Boy wants you to think of him as a loveable rogue, all the better for him to manipulate you. He's fooled his friends, anyone he can get business off of, his mother and sisters, Renton's parents (and they are also taken in by Franco and Billy's public personas so clearly aren't the best judges of character) and of course the innumerable women he's been with. He only had two narrated chapters in the original, but got many more in Skagboys and Porno which go a very long way to show you what a scumbag he really is. Combined with other characters narrating about finding out sooner or later about his true nature, the reader is in no doubts he that is an extremely ropey, unlikeable individual. It was to his benefit that Renton and Spud could have been interpreted as giving him a bad press in the original.
    • A more subtle one: Renton is, presumably, supposedly good at football. We never really get to see his skills, but he does wear the sacred #10 jersey.
  • Ironic Echo: The "Choose Life" speech. The first time Renton delivers it, he's being sarcastic and cynical. The second time, he's fully sincere about living that life.
    • In the movie, the opening chase scene is replayed again with different music and narration after the baby dies, with devastating effect.
  • Jail Bait: Mark Renton has sex with Diane, discovering the next morning that she is fifteen when she appears in her school uniform and her "flatmates" are actually her parents. Later, she threatens to tell the police if he does not see her again.
  • Jewish American Princess: Spud has a fetish for Jewish princesses, apparently acquired through listening to Frank Zappa as he mentions Moon Unit Zappa and alludes to Zappa's other songs "Catholic Girls" and "Valley Girl" in the same chapter.
  • Jump Cut: The film uses jump cuts in one scene as a metaphor for the POV of a character under the influence of speed.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Not exactly, since the "heroes" are the ones who introduced him to the habit in the first place, but Tommy goes from soothing the pain of a breakup with drugs to ruining his entire life with drugs in the space of a few scenes.
  • Just for Pun
  • Karma Houdini: By the end of the story Renton in particular escaped any particular punishment, besides his life threatening withdrawal and his guilt. Subverted or averted in other cases:
    • Spud did time near the middle of the movie.
    • Sick Boy and Allison lost their child.
    • Begbie lost his money and presumably had to deal with the cops in the end.
      • The sequel establishes that he does end up going to prison for manslaughter.
    • Mother Superior got his just desserts only in the deleted scenes. He lost one of his legs due to injecting too much heroin into it, and became a homeless beggar.
    • Alan Venters, a rapist who knowingly gave AIDS to his victim, gets one of the most horrifically justified comeuppances of any character in fiction.
  • Limited Social Circle: Averted, at least in the book, where there are tons of people in the main group.
  • Literal Metaphor: Early in the film, when Renton goes to Mikey Forrester to get his last hit, Mikey gives him opium anal suppositories instead. Realizing that they're the closest thing to heroin that he's going to get, Renton takes them and inserts them into his anus. Cue the following exchange:
    Mikey: Aye, you feel better the now right?
    Renton: Oh, yeah, for all the good they've done me I might as well have stuck them up my arse!
  • Literary Allusion Title: The chapter titled The Skag Boys is probably a reference to The Slab Boys, a trilogy of plays by the Glaswegian painter and writer John Byrne.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Excluding one-shot characters, let's see: Mark, Spud, Sick Boy, Second Prize, Begbie, Tommy, Johnny Swan, Dianne, Lesley, Kelly, Alison, Donnelly, Keezbo, Stevie, Matty, Mitch, Nelly, Dawsy, Mikey Forrester, Seeker, Alan Venters, Gavin Temperley, Mark's parents and brother. The cast is cut down significantly in the film to deal mostly with Renton's personal story.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Both Renton and Spud in the film.
  • Manly Tears: In the film, Sick Boy sheds them when Baby Dawn is found dead from starvation and neglect (because he was the father). No one else does, though they are all in utter shock.
  • Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast: The two couples in the loud club, when the girls go to the bathroom and the boys remain at the table. Both talk about their relationships with the other, then claim to be talking about safer and more stereotypical subjects when the girls return.
    "What are you two talking about?"
    [Glance at each other] "Football. What are you talking about?"
    "Shopping."
  • Match Cut: In the opening of the film, two shots of Renton falling to the ground are intercut; the first is when he gets hit in the head by a football, and the second is when he takes heroin in his home and falls to the floor as the drug takes its course.
  • Mathematician's Answer: "And where're you going Diane?" "Home." "Where's that then?" "It's where I live."
  • Matzo Fever: Spud's plans for his cut of the money involve settling down with a beautiful, rich Jewish princess.
  • Mood Whiplash: Over and over again.
  • Nailed To The Wagon: Renton has his parents lock him in his room to force himself through withdrawal.
  • Mushroom Samba: Inverted - most of the characters' hallucinations take place when they AREN'T on drugs, and aren't pleasant at all.
  • The Napoleon: In the book, Begbie is a tattooed and physically massive bully, but director Danny Boyle cast the relatively short Robert Carlyle on the belief that smaller guys are more foul-tempered.
  • Nightmare Face: The scariest thing we see of Baby Dawn after she dies is her soulless, discolored face.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Renton ends up locked in his old bedroom by his parents to be forced through withdrawal, and as a result suffers vividly unnerving hallucinations; although they aren't all terrifying, the scariest one has to be Baby Dawn crawling on the ceiling and turning its head 180 degrees before suddenly falling on Renton.
  • Nobody Poops: Thoroughly averted in a disgusting scene where Spud has a hilarious accident with shit, piss and vomit (in the book, semen as well - and Davie is the victim, rather than Spud).
    • Also averted in Renton's sudden attack of diarrhea where he soils his pants. In the film, he goes diving into a filthy public toilet. The filmmakers in the commentary note that the water he swims in was supposed to look disgusting and filled with excrement, but it actually looks quite pleasant.
  • No Periods, Period: Even more thoroughly and explicitly averted than Nobody Poops, and even more Squicktastic.
    • In fact, almost every chapter narrated by a female character features an aversion of this. (Welsh possibly has some difficulty writing female characters.)
  • No Pregger Sex: The book has a scene which both averts this and has the sort of imagery that shows why this trope is Squick to some people; Mark is having sex with his dead brother's pregnant girlfriend and his narration says he gets a mental image of him being so far up inside her that the foetus is simultaneously giving him a blowjob. He says the image "torments" him, but he keeps going anyway. Given that he knows he is shagging her (in a toilet at said dead brother's funeral!) to get back at his hated brother anyway, the image just serves to highlight his self-aware degradation.
  • Non-Indicative Name: At no point in the film do the characters watch trains. The title has more relevance in the original novel, however. It's alluded to in one of the trailers as well, but in a way that has nothing to do with either the the book or the film.
  • Oh, Crap!: Begbie's reaction in the movie when he discovers that the girl he just picked up isn't quite what she seems. As it comes shortly after a lot of extremely dark stuff it's quite a welcome change of mood.
    Begbie Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck... FUCK!
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The film opens In Medias Res with a scene of Renton, Spud, and Sick Boy running from the police, set to "Lust for Life" by Iggy Pop, giving it a jaunty, madcap tone. Later on, the same scene is shown again, in correct chronological order, in the wake of Sick Boy's baby's death, this time set to "Sing" by Blur. The changed circumstances and music suggest the increasingly unhappy and desperate group of friends is starting to break down. The second time around also reveals that Renton was tackled and arrested by the second policeman chasing him.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Renton has Davie the father, Wee Davie the disabled brother, and Davie the workmate/friend.
  • Parental Abandonment: In the book, Begbie abandons his and June's son. He's previously had kids with other women as well. It's implied that the same thing happened to him as a child; Renton and Begbie run into an "auld drunkard" in a train station who Renton only later realizes was Begbie's father (this scene also provides the book's title, as Begbie's father asks the two if they are "trainspottin'").
  • Parental Incest: Hazel let slip to Mark she'd suffered from this as a girl, making sex with her near-impossible from lingering trauma.
  • Phony Veteran: In the book (and in a Deleted Scene from the film), Swanny, after losing his leg, is reduced to begging, while claiming he lost his leg in the Falklands War.
  • Posthumous Character: Mark's heavily disabled brother Davie.
    • He's present in Skagboys, until his unfortunate passing.
  • Potty Emergency: Renton's leads to his encounter with the famed "Worst Toilet In Scotland".
    Renton: (narrating) Heroin makes you constipated. The heroin from my last hit was fading, and the suppositories had yet to melt.
    [moans loudly, doubles over]
    Renton: I'm no longer constipated.
  • Potty Failure: Spud has a memorable one, when he fills his girlfriend's bed with thin alcohol-vomit, semen, piss and diarrhea. When the girlfriend's mother tries to take the soiled bedsheets, Spud is so embarrassed he holds them back, and they get into a tugging match - which ends with the whole family getting sprayed with it.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The screenwriter John Hodge has said he considered the book unfilmable, so huge amounts were cut and new bits added to give the remaining fragments some sense of being part of an actual narrative.
  • Psycho Sidekick: Nelly is this to Franco, along with other psychos like Lexo and Ghostie Gorman.
  • Rail Enthusiast: The title comes from a chapter in the novel called "Trainspotting at Leith Central Station". The joke is that the station is long-closed and derelict, so trainspotting there is an utterly pointless, dull, and squalid experience, like most things the characters do.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The film has both the foreign slang and the incomprehensibility.
  • Recovered Addict: Mark in the movie gets Nailed To The Wagon and eventually manages to stick with it.
  • Recurring Extra: Dawsy, Mony, Moysie, Saybo, Shaun and Sully are generic, nondescript members of the gang's extended circle of friends who appear sporadically throughout all three books.
  • Same Language Dub: The first 20 minutes of the film were redubbed to make the thick Scottish accents comprehensible to an American audience. The Region 1 DVD releases restored the original audio.
  • Scenery Porn: Perhaps it is shite being Scottish, but damn if the highlands aren't gucking forgeous.
    • interestingly, the subtitles (or at least the Netflix ones) have the original slang; bird/girl, post/mail, skag/smack etc.
  • Second Face Smoke: Begbie demands a cigarette from Renton after attacking a man who spilled his beer (and Spud, when he "got in [his] way"). Renton obliges and lights his cigarette for him, only for Begbie to blow the smoke in his face to show him who's in charge of the whole operation. While Renton had been thinking about stealing the money from the heroin sale for a while now as opposed to dividing it among the four of them as intended, it's this incident that pushes him over the edge and gives him the nerve to steal the money. Fortunately for Spud, he got his share of the money owed to him.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Sick Boy talking about the different aspects of James Bond.
  • Sex Equals Love: Averted with Mark and Dianne in both the novel and film adaption. That said, they end up together at the end of Porno, making this trope applicable even though it takes them ten years to get there.
  • Sgt. Pepper's Shout-Out: In the film, Renton and his friends are waiting at a railway station, with one of them facing the camera with his back, just like Paul does on the back cover of the album.
  • Sickbed Slaying: In the book, Alan Venters rapes a girl and knowingly infects her with HIV, which she then unknowingly passes to her boyfriend, Davie. He conceals his knowledge and initiates a fake friendship with Venters as he is dying in hospital, visiting him frequently. He then creates a set of fake photographs which appear to show the horrific rape and murder of Venters's son (the only being besides himself that he cares about) and shows these to Venters before smothering him with a pillow, filling the last moments of Venters' life with anguish.
  • Single-Issue Psychology: Subverted: when Mark is undergoing rehab he sees a succession of psychologists and counselors, each of whom try to attribute his heroin addiction to a single event in his life or facet of his personality (guilt over his brother Davie's death, his refusal to integrate himself into society). Mark, to his credit, doesn't believe a word of it.
  • Smug Straight Edge: Second Prize, Begbie and Tommy initially take this attitude, pouring scorn on their junkie mates. As it turns out though, they're not much better. Second Prize drinks like a fish, above and beyond any other character. Begbie is a heavy drinker, coke and speed user, and of course has his violence addiction. And Tommy has done every recreational drug available... up to and including the skag, to his great cost.
    • Unless you drink as much as Second Prize, you're not really an alcoholic in Irvine Welsh's literary universe. This is Scotland, after all.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Allison's daughter, Dawn, dies of neglect due to her parents being drug addicts... where was Social Services, whom could've prevented this?
  • The Sociopath: Begbie, an Ax-Crazy psychopath who glasses a man for spilling his pint, carries around sharpened knitting needles to stab people with, and beats his pregnant girlfriend, all without a hint of remorse.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Begbie's friends try to treat him this way, though he turns his rage on them often enough.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" plays as Renton has a near-fatal heroin overdose, though the song is probably about Lou Reed's heroin addiction.
  • Spiritual Successor: According to Danny Boyle there's a sly connection between this film and his previous film Shallow Grave. Keith Allen portrays a drug dealer in both films — with the intention that we think he may be the same character in both, as Trainspotting was supposed to take place in the late 1980s before the occurrences in Shallow Grave.
  • Switching P.O.V.: In all three books in the trilogy, each chapter is narrated by a different character, with Renton being the most prominent narrator in Trainspotting, Sick Boy being the most prominent in Porno, with the two getting more or less an equal share of focus in Skagboys.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Self-inflicted by Renton.
  • Television Geography: The film is set in Edinburgh, right? Then what can explain the scene where Renton and Diane come out of the nightclub and it is revealed to be the very distinctive exterior of the Volcano... which is Glasgow, a good fifty miles from Edinburgh?
  • Textual Celebrity Resemblance: In the book, Renton is said to resemble footballer Alex McLeish, while Sick Boy and Tommy are said to look like Steven Seagal and Harrison Ford respectively.
  • There Is Only One Bed: In the film, Begbie robs a jewellery shop with a replica pistol and hides out in Renton's bedsit. They end up having to share the bed, where Begbie twitches and convulses in his sleep. When Sick Boy joins them and the three of them end up sharing, Renton decides he's had enough and sends them to a flat he has trouble renting out.
    • In the book, Renton ends up in the dilapidated basement apartment of an Italian homosexual he meets at a porn cinema, they share the only bed, Renton expecting that, since they're both fully clothed, nothing can happen. He wakes up a few hours later with a face-full of the guy's semen.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Spud spends most of the movie as a semi-coherent walking joke, but in the end he's the only one who gets sent his fair share of the loot from Renton.
  • Title Drop: In the book, Renton, and Begbie come across an old drunk at a train station, who is revealed to be Begbie's father. He asks them, "What yis up to, lads? Trainspotting?" This scene is recollected in the film's sequel.
  • Titled After the Song: Some of the chapters are named after songs or lyrics - "Scotland Takes Drugs in Physic Defense", There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" and "Station to Station".
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: The scene in the night club with Spud and Tommy by the dance floor and Spud's "girlfriend" and Lizzie in the ladies' room.
  • Unconventional Formatting: In the novel, slightly unusual textual layouts when Renton is hallucinating because of withdrawal.
  • The Unfettered: Sick Boy. Chapters narrated from his perspective showcase his disdain for society and his friends, and he has no qualms or regrets about using other people. Renton later says of Sick Boy: "He doesnae care. Because he doesnae care, he cannae be hurt. Never."
  • The Unintelligible:
    • Spud, particularly when he's been shooting up. For most of the movie, an incoherent Scottish mush comes out of his mouth that's impossible to understand for people outside Edinburgh. In the book, his narrated chapters feature the thickest dialect.
    • Most readers probably have this reaction as soon as they start reading the book's dense phonetics. One gets used to it, however.
    • Begbie's chapters in the books are often unreadable because he's so full of profanity and swears so much at the expense of actually describing what's going on. A particularly memorable chapter is the very short one in which every single person is referred to as 'that cunt' with maybe the odd character attribute thrown in to help you along your way.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: In the movie, but not the novel. One of Begbie's club hookups turns out to be packing a salami surprise. His reaction is predictable, though much less violent than might have been anticipated. In the book, this happened to Renton, not Begbie. However, as opposed to panicking, Mark admits to probably just being bisexual and ends up getting to third base with him. Eventually, the violently homophobic Begbie caught Renton fondling the transvestite and beat him until he couldn't walk for a couple days.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The "Morningside speed" Spud takes for his job interview is a slang term for cocaine. Morningside is one of the more affluent suburbs of Edinburgh, with the implication that people there are rich enough to afford cocaine rather than using amphetamines.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Tommy and Lizzie's relationship might have been on very shaky ground already, but Renton secretly swapping their personal pornotape pushes it over the edge as Tommy cannot explain why it is missing and can't deny that someone else might have gotten their hands on it when he and Lizzie discover the swap. The lonely Tommy turns to drugs in an attempt to mend his broken heart, decays severely both physically and mentally, gets infected with HIV after using drugs for just a few months, sinks into extreme poverty, suffers a stroke, and finally dies completely alone while lying in a pool of his own sick, and his body is first discovered when the neighbors complain about the smell.
  • The Verse: A rough example. All of Irvine Welsh's books take place in the same universe, so the Trainspotting characters sometimes have fleeting cameo appearances in Welsh's other works. The extremely disturbing book Marabou Stork Nightmares (which is Nausea Fuel on paper) was his second book, and the rapist Lexo from that book makes an appearance in this one. Scary as he is, he is terrified of his "friend" Frank Begbie.
  • Villain Protagonist: Mark Renton. He is after all, a heroin addict who shoplifts, sells drugs, takes sexual advantage of his late brother's widow, and steals thousands of pounds from his friends. He promises the audience that he's going to lead a normal life from then on, however.
  • Violent Glaswegian: BEGBIE, and plenty more besides.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Renton and Sick Boy. In the book, Renton notes that the back-and-forth insults which began as jokes are becoming more and more deeply meant. By the end of the novel it becomes barely concealed mutual hatred come Porno.
    In a way, Sick Boy would understand, even have a grudging admiration for his actions. His main anger would be directed at himself for not having the bottle to do it first.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Davie's killing of Alan Venters is carried out by this method.
  • Watering Down: Inverted. Renton's usually compensates for the fact that Seeker usually cuts any heroin he sells by upping his dosage per hit. He overdoses when the gear he gets is actually pure (or less cut at least).
  • Weapon for Intimidation: "Armed robbery?! With a replica?!"
  • What Happened to the Kitten?: Subverted! "The kitten was fine."
  • Where Did We Go Wrong?: Renton's parents had this basic reaction towards his addiction.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Begbie makes out with a "woman" in his car for a while before discovering it's a man.
  • With Friends Like These...: Everyone is terrified of Begbie, and they all understand that he could turn on them at the drop of a hat. In the book, Renton elaborates that Begbie's friends have to pretend to believe several myths about him to keep in his good graces.
  • Word Salad Title: The title seems to be nonsensical, but it's a shortening of the original short story's title "Trainspotting at Leith Central Station". The joke is that the station is long-closed and derelict, so trainspotting there is an utterly pointless, dull and squalid experience, like most things the characters do. No one "trainspots" or even says the word in the film. In the book there is a brief scene where an old drunk later implied to be Begbie's father asks Renton and Begbie if they are trainspotting. The term is a slang reference to a junkie's search for a vein to inject drugs in. Fans often speculate as to the various levels of significance the title has to the story's themes.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Renton gets one at the end of the film. It's the closing monologue to the film that closely mirrors his opening monologue.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Viciously averted by Begbie and Alan Venters. Subverted by Second Prize: when he sees Venters beating up his girlfriend in the pub, he remembers his dad telling him never to hit a girl, advice he claims to have followed; but then observes that holding his girlfriend so she can't walk away from their arguments doesn't really count. Renton disagrees, and says it's the same principle.
    • Also, when Second Prize and Tommy try to stop Venters publicly beating up his girlfriend, the woman suddenly turns into a Violently Protective Girlfriend, and viciously attacks Tommy with her nails. Even though he's shocked by the sudden assault, his "don't hit girls" instinct is so strong that instead of doing anything to her, he turns around and punches Venters instead.
  • Younger Than They Look: Mark Renton meets Diane in a club, then goes to her house where they have sex. Immediately after the act she kicks him out of her room and he sleeps on a sofa. In the morning it's revealed that she's underage. She even threatens to report him for sex with a minor if he doesn't see her againnote .

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/Trainspotting