Trainspotting looks like it may use drugs in the same way that Hate (La Haine), a recent French film about street hoods in Paris, established a meaningful tone by equating violence and crime with its protagonists' aimlessness. Trainspotting, though, takes a metaphorical approach, one in which the horrifying (a dead child is one of the shocking images that lingers inside your head) shares space with the horrifyingly comedic. By being more vulgar than gory, the film approximates the details of daily drug life with accuracy and compassion, and its message takes root all the more securely by being grounded in its characters' perceptions of reality. It manages to provide shocks by portraying the inherent decency inside even the most reprehensible junkie. By humanizing its anti-heroes, Trainspotting creates a sense of understanding that crystallizes the essence of the drug subculture with startling clarity.
Trainspotting. Miramax. Ewan MacGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller. Written by John Hodge. Directed by Danny Boyle. Opens July 26.