A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Trainspotting is a black comedy about of a group of friends (including Ewan McGregor) held together largely by their shared addiction to heroin. Much time is spent simply on presenting sounds and images meant to simulate either the euphoria of heroin highs or the wretchedness of heroin withdrawal. Characters are frequently shown preparing, using, and even selling drugs. Violence includes fist fights and fights with blunt instruments and broken glass, which can get quite bloody. The dialogue is almost wall-to-wall obscenities (including frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t"), although the Scottish accent is often hard for Americans to understand. In a particularly disturbing scene, a baby dies due to the neglect of his heroin-addicted mother. Sex is discussed and shown graphically, including a scene in which a topless woman straddles a man in bed. Also, a character has sex with a girl he later learns is underage. While this movie has reached cult classic status, it's definitely not appropriate for kids.
What's the story?
Tracking the exploits of a group of friends in Edinburgh, Scotland, TRAINSPOTTING is narrated by main character Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor). The film covers the roller coaster-like cycles of heroin addicts, alternately cleaning out and retracting back into the comfort of their addiction. In the final third, the focus shifts to the interpersonal politics amongst Renton and his friends as they attempt to earn a sizeable amount of money through a risky heroin deal, showing how even when the heroin isn't running Renton's life through addiction, his friends function as a negative drain on him.
Is it any good?
For a unique, consummately entertaining, and yet utterly harrowing look into the life of heroin addicts, this movie offers open-minded viewers an unforgettable experience. But Trainspotting is wholly inappropriate for kids.
McGregor's performance, along with Robert Carlyle's as Renton's psychotically violent friend. Begbie, made big enough impressions to bring both actors many other choice roles in the wake of this movie's success. It also elevated director Danny Boyle's profile, making it possible for him to undertake bigger-budget films in subsequent years.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what gives Trainspotting its cult film status. What makes something a "cult" hit?
Do you think the movie sensationalizes drug addiction or gives an accurate picture? How well does the film balance the euphoric visions of heroin highs with the low moments of addicts being driven to steal, hurt others, etc.?
The narrator seems to present himself as in control of his actions, but is he really? Are his final actions towards his friends warranted? Do we feel that he has truly changed his ways at the close of the film?
- In theaters: January 1, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: June 1, 2004
- Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller
- Director: Danny Boyle
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: graphic heroin use and resulting depravity, strong language, sex, nudity and some violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.