I was transported back to my twenties, when mid-1990s Edinburgh felt like it was the centre of the cinematic world – thanks to two top-drawer movies set in the city.
A quarter of a century on, I think I still slightly prefer Shallow Grave, the dark thriller about three New Town flatmates who get more than they bargained for when they end up with a dead body and a suitcase full of cash, to Trainspotting, director Danny Boyle’s follow-up a year later. It was maybe something to do with McGregor’s local newspaper journalist and his painful lessons about never, ever becoming the story.
While Shallow Grave announced the arrival of Boyle and McGregor as two of British cinema’s biggest names, Trainspotting would have a much bigger impact.
Both Irvine Welsh’s book and Boyle’s movie played a key part in powering Edinburgh’s cultural scene in the 1990s, when the Cameo and Filmhouse cinemas became some of the city’s coolest hang-outs, and the city boasted a thriving live music and clubbing scene.
Trainspotting was a film that captured the imagination of a generation of young Scots – with characters they could relate to, music they could dance to and dialogue that they would be able to recite in their dreams. Not since Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl had a film managed to capture how it felt to be Scottish.
A quarter of a century on, it is hard to think of a Scottish film that has come close to matching the impact Trainspotting made.
However there is a new Scottish film which has been made which could have something like the mass appeal of Trainspotting – whenever it sees the light of day – and even has loose connections with Boyle’s masterpiece.
Our Ladies, which follows the riotous exploits of a group of teenage girls from the Highlands in Edinburgh for a choir competition, is set exactly 25 years ago and is an adaptation of The Sopranos, a novel by Alan Warner, a contemporary of Irvine Welsh’s whose debut novel Morvern Callar was published just two years after Trainspotting.
It took Michael Caton-Jones, the director who brought the story of Rob Roy to the big screen the year before Trainspotting arrived in cinemas, more than 20 years to get an adaptation of The Sopranos off the ground.
When it was unveiled at the Glasgow Film Festival last March to audience and critical acclaim, the scene appeared to be set for the film and its all-female lead cast to follow in the footsteps of Trainspotting’s memorable gang – only for the pandemic to intervene.
The prolonged shutdown of cinemas has kept it in cold storage since then – but with industry giants Sony seemingly keen to hold it back for the return of big-screen audiences.
Hopefully they are banking on the feelgood factor and nostalgia of the film and the escapades of its characters packing even more a punch than it would have had before the pandemic. If it does see the light of day this year, the anniversary of Trainspotting may be marked with a new Scottish movie which can finally give it a run for its money.