Director Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting reunites Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) with his old mates twenty years later. After running off with his friends’ shares of a lucrative drug deal, Mark has made a somewhat comfortable life for himself in Amsterdam. However, an impending divorce and corporate downsizing send the protagonist back to his hometown of Leith. The homecoming is anything but promising as hard economic times have changed the Edinburgh neighborhood. Housing towers crumble slowly in the distance while streets are littered with rubble from demolished buildings. A high-speed train sporadically zips through the area to ultimately reveal that the modern world has moved forward without the small town.
Much like his neighborhood, Mark is also stuck in the past and therefore is unable to progress in his adulthood. His debilitating symptom – which is shared by rest of the male cast – reflects the “deeply disappointing masculinity” that Boyle portrays throughout the film. To ignore the present, Mark uses pop-culture to help him relive fonder memories of his of teenage years. He soon finds himself back in his room with the iconic train wallpaper and vinyl record collection. In this atemporal space, shrines to Lou Reed and David Bowie still exist above Mark’s bed. His worship of music continues as he dusts off a copy of
Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and places it carefully on his record player. These cultural elements reintroduce the character to the iconic songs that narrated his life in Trainspotting. Although music provides much of Mark’s nostalgia fix, football also helps infuse the past into the present. An old Hibernian Football Club program reintroduces the protagonist to a famous moment in his local team’s history. Featured on one page is George Best dribbling down the pitch while donning Hib’s green jersey. This instant of recollection is brief, yet Best continues to be a specter that looms throughout the rest of the plot.
Archie Gemmill’s goal against Holland in the 1978 World Cup first introduced us to football’s role in the Trainspotting series. Mark equates this famous moment in Scottish football history to his first intimate experience with Diane.
In T2, the beautiful game still has its hold on Mark two decades later as he reminisces about Best’s short – and lackluster – time with Hibernian F.C. For eleven months in 1979, Best played for the Scottish first-division team as part of an effort to save the side from relegation. This mission was doomed however due to the footballer’s alcoholism which robbed him of his health and skills. Best’s debilitating addiction was a target for opposing fans as they threw cans of beer at the player from the stands. During a match against Rangers, he picked up a can and supposedly drank from it before taking a corner kick. Both sides of the terraces gleefully laughed at this sight, and the visitors stopped abusing the aging football star. Unfortunately, Hibs would be relegated despite Best’s three goals in twenty-two appearances.
Instead of dwelling on this dark period of his hero’s life, Mark chooses to recall Best’s illustrious time at Manchester United. This form of selective remembering illustrates how the character ignores certain historical moments in order to craft a more suitable past. In a later scene, Simon Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller) and Mark swap memories about Best’s most famous goals. The estranged friends also bond over the anecdote about a hotel waiter finding “The Fifth Beatle” sharing a bed with thousands of bank notes and the current Miss Universe. This shocking scene prompted the waiter to ask, “Mr. Best, where did it all go wrong?”
The duo’s worship of the footballer continues as Mark and Simon put on vintage Manchester United and Hibernian kits to play a game of foosball. Both characters consequently come to represent two different versions of Best. One is the United hero in his prime, and the other is the diminished football star. Mark fittingly clings to the Best that repeatedly amazed crowds at Old Trafford during the 60s and 70s.
Behind the foosball table, a large flat screen television plays highlights from Best’s career at United. Mark gradually positions himself in front of TV and mimics one of his idol’s goal celebrations. These various images and memories of the footballer quickly fall in line with the film’s most standout phrase: “You’re a tourist in your own youth.” Best’s reoccurring appearances in T2 subsequently add to Mark’s wistful remembering of the past.
As fans of the beautiful game, we also try and recall the bright moments in our favorite teams’ history or our heroes’ careers. Remembering Best as a rockstar-level player is far more appealing than Googling late photos of the deteriorating footballer. However, as supporters, we also need to consider the current manifestation of the sport and what it can provide us in the future. Recalling past victories and goals can certainly provide us with a form of nostalgic happiness. Yet, unlike Mark who is addicted to the past, football will always keep moving forward even if we choose to remain situated in the glory days.