"You're a tourist in your own youth," cries Simon (formerly Sick Boy) to Mark (aka Renton) as they enact a pilgrimage to the exact spot where, 20 years earlier, they went to sit and complain about how empty and meaningless their lives were. This is one of the signature moments in T2, the sequel to Trainspotting that reunites the cast and crew of the iconic—and it truly was one of the few totems of 1990s pop culture that legitimately earned the description—1996 film. And like the original, the scene has a ring of truth that's only enhanced by the fact that the filmmakers frame it with a knowing and nasty wink.
By watching the film, you're almost certainly wallowing in a certain brand of nostalgia that serves to deaden one's consciousness of life in 2017. Of course, the irony lies in the suggestion that life in 2017—which, in the world of the film, involves not-so-petty crime, cocaine and heroin addiction, marital torpor, health scares, a lifetime of resentful disappointments, and the threat of real violence—is somehow worth being fully conscious of.
The other irony, of course, is that even as you're aware that you are indulging in something that is supposedly bad for you, it feels very good. The native visual wit of Danny Boyle's direction has only grown more delightful with age—he revels in mischievous references to the original film. And there's something undeniably satisfying in seeing the four actors from the original reunited, and looking weathered. (It's also nice to hear Ewan McGregor speaking with a Scots accent again.)
The original film was like a bone-marrow biopsy of the zeitgeist of its period. By contrast, the sequel revels in pricking its characters' articulate, self-aware out-of-timeness. It confines them to a Scotland that is simultaneously collapsing upon itself (high mountains of garbage loom everywhere) and exploding outward into an indistinguishable Europeanness, and it surrounds them with reminders of the selves they never managed to become.
And if the story is ever-so-slightly predictable, it's no less pleasurable to watch it unfold. The themes—the limitations of friendship, the impossibility of going home again, the impossibility of staying away, the slow agony of getting older while still feeling locked in your youthful perceptions—will resonate, maybe deeply, with people who are old enough to remember when people started complaining about irony the first time around.