The aimlessness of Trainspotting is what made the 1996 film a cult classic and indie phenomenon. It's grungy, grimy, and (at points) utterly vile. The gritty film scrapped away the glamorization of drugs and druggies by giving a glimpse into the empty lives of four best mates and heroin addicts living moment to moment in Edinburgh, Scotland. Their highs are artificial, and their lows are suffocatingly low. There's Mark "Rent Boy" Renton, Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson, Daniel "Spud" Murphy, Tommy, and the nefarious petty criminal, Francis "Franco" Begbie.
In the 2017 follow-up, the crew is back together ( sans Tommy, R.I.P) for T2 Trainspotting and shit is... fucked up. But amidst the drama surrounding illicit money, escaped criminals, sex rings, drug selling, and crumbling friendships, I was drawn to one platinum-blonde, steely-eyed con artist: Sick Boy.
When I first saw Trainspotting as a wee teen in the mid-2000s (I was only four when it first debuted, forgive me for being late to the scene). Upon watching, I felt all sorts of things, which should happen with any great film. I was flummoxed by the use of heavy drugs, repulsed by that toilet scene, and obsessed with Sick Boy. Played by the sterling Jonny Lee Miller, Sick Boy is hands-down the best character in the Trainspotting franchise, as seen by his eccentric and coked-out performance twenty years later. (Spud, you were a CLOSE second but that vomit scene brought you down a rung.) Now you may be thinking: Okay — Sick Boy is just hot that's why he's your favorite.
And while that statement is... 100 percent correct, there's so much more to this pretty boy drug addict than just his blonde ambitions and purposefully maintained physique. He's James Dean meets Justin Bieber meets Panic In Needle Park. And I'm so, so into it.
So — who is Sick Boy? In the books and films, his real name is Simon. He's the right-hand man of his best bro and #1 collaborator of bad choices, Renton. He's addicted to heroin and having fun, but has the will power to be more when he sets his mind to something (remember how he gives up the drug to show Rent Boy he can quit it, too?). He's dealt with tragedy (the dying baby scene from the first film will never not make me squirm), and he's hustled to make a living (even though his entrepreneurial efforts are completely illegal, immoral, and dangerous). He knows how to hold a grudge and seek revenge on those who have wronged him, much like his idol James Bond. In another life, he would probably be brave, respectable, and posh. But in this one — he's just Sick Boy, a reckless kid trapped in an aging 40somethings body. Plus: him and Renton are (literal) blood brothers and the love of each other's lives, as another character points out in the film.
Am I allowed to have a crush on this problematic, messy man? Yes. Do I recognize the toxicity of his drug-fueled world? Yes. But should we take a minute to look at his best moments from both films? Yes, a million times yes.
Here he is a bit older, and none the wiser, and still doing the things he loves: partying, drinking, and making money.
Others can choose life. I choose Sick Boy.
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