HIV test - I’m negative - Visiting Tommy - Diane visits - London montage - Real estate montage - Diane’s letter - Begbie shows up - Begbie montage - out to celebrate - Begbie’s girl - “Could have been wonderful” - Sick Boy arrives - fish and chips - getting rid of Begbie and Sick Boy
In the next scene, a nurse prepares Renton’s arm to draw blood. Renton inhales sharply and says “ow” when the nurse sticks him with the needle, and she responds by staring at him unsympathetically. In the next shot, several bingo balls swirl around in a large bowl. The caller calls a number, and Renton’s mother jumps up to announce she and Renton have won. The camera fixes on Renton, and begins panning out. The other characters in the scene speed up, bustling around him as they drink, talk, greet others, stand to leave and then return, while Renton remains still. His beer remains untouched. His voice-over explains how lucky he is to have turned out HIV-negative. He says that the real difficulty begins once the pain of withdrawal wears off, because then he has to confront depression and boredom.
An establishing shot shows a tall apartment building across a set of train tracks. Inside, spray paint on the stairwell points toward a door and reads “Aids Junky Scum.” Renton is heard banging on the door and yelling Tommy’s name. Somebody has spray-painted “PLAGUE” across the door of Tommy’s flat and there seems to be human feces splattered on the outside of the wall and window. Tommy peers through the closed window to make sure he knows the person who is knocking. Tommy opens the door and goes back to lie on his bed. Renton begins kicking Tommy’s soccer ball against the wall of the flat, as he tries to make small talk. Renton sits and Tommy asks him if he has been tested. Renton tells him that he was negative, and tells Tommy he is sorry, because Tommy has HIV. Tommy asks Renton if Renton has any gear, but Renton tells him that he has quit drugs. Tommy asks Renton for some money, and Renton hands him a few bills. As he does so, they pause to stare at each other while they are both holding the money.
Renton answers a knock at his door to find Diane, waiting in her school uniform. She asks him if he is clean and he tells her that he is. She can smell marijuana and asks for some, Renton tells her she is too young, and she enters while asking, “too young for what?” The next cut shows Renton naked and Diane wearing one of his shirts, as they both lie in his bed sharing a joint. She tells him he is getting old and losing touch with the world, and that he needs to make a life change. His voice-over responds that she is right, and a montage of scenes of London begins. The montage resembles a tourism video, showing all of the major sights in quick succession to upbeat music.
In a real-estate office, Renton, dressed in a suit and tie, answers a phone call. He begins describing a real estate listing with a prepared line. His narration explains the booming real estate business as a series of shots show him at work. He answers phones and shows a couple an apartment. At the office, another worker answers a phone and delivers the same prepared line that Renton had delivered one minute earlier. The upbeat music from the London montage continues during the real-estate sequence. In voice-over Renton describes the business as a criminal enterprise, which cheats and scams the consumers. He describes himself as almost content, for the first time in his life.
In the next scene, Renton is reading a letter from Diane and eating ramen noodles from a cup. Diane’s voice is heard reading out the text of the letter over the scene. She begins by telling him that she is happy for him. We then cut to a series of images of her life as she describes in the letter. She is in school sitting in the student lounge as she writes the letter, and tells him that school is good and she is not pregnant. Sick Boy has become a pimp since Renton left town, and asked Diane to work for him as a prostitute. We see an image of Sick Boy waiting outside of the school gates to talk to Diane. She tells Renton in the letter that she “told him where to go,” which means that she declined his offer. She sees Spud on the street working on a car and he mumbles something unintelligible, which she takes to mean that he misses Renton. She also tells Renton that nobody has seen Tommy in a long time, and that Begbie is wanted for the armed robbery of a jewelry store.
As Renton finishes reading the letter, his doorbell buzzes. He flips the letter over and re-reads the line about Begbie being wanted for armed robbery. Renton realizes that Begbie has probably come to stay with Renton to lay low for a while. The next cut shows Begbie standing over Renton, aiming a pistol at him. He complains that the crime should not be considered armed robbery because the gun is only a toy replica, and he points it at his own head and fires it repeatedly, to no effect. He also complains that the jewelry he stole is cheap, fake silver. He acts as though he is outraged for the young couples that spend money on the fake jewelry, and Renton unenthusiastically humors him. Begbie says he is hungry, and starts trashing Renton’s apartment looking for food. Renton is visibly annoyed, and a montage of Begbie’s infringement on Renton’s life begins. Begbie demands more cigarettes, crumpling up an empty pack and dropping it on the floor in the hallway as Renton leaves for work. Renton returns to the flat with groceries and cannot get in because Begbie has bolted the door, and Begbie questions him through the door before opening it. As Begbie and Renton lie head to toe on Renton’s bed, Begbie snores and twitches his feet in front of Renton’s face. Renton repeats a line from earlier in the movie about Begbie, saying, “the guy’s a psycho, but… he’s a mate also so what can you do?” We are shown that the pile of empty cigarette packs in the hallway outside the flat has grown to a size that suggests that several weeks has passed.
While Renton lies in bed reading, Begbie is watching horse racing. He demands that Renton go down to the betting shop and put five pounds on a horse called Bad Boy, saying that he cannot go because of his fugitive status. Renton grudgingly agrees, and Begbie spits out a sip of beer on the floor of the apartment, complaining that it is bad beer. Just as Renton is returning from the betting shop, the race is finishing. Inside the apartment, Begbie is watching and cheering for Bad Boy, who wins. Renton hears Begbie screaming in celebration through the door of the apartment, turns around, and walks away without entering.
Begbie had really good odds on the horse and won a lot of money, so the two of them go out to celebrate at a club with the winnings. Renton dances alone against a wall, and seems to be having a great time. Begbie is dancing with a very tall woman. They whisper something to each other and start to walk off of the dance floor. Begbie gestures in celebration at Renton, who smiles and laughs in response. Renton’s narration suggests that he already knows that the girl with Begbie is a transvestite, but that Begbie does not know. He keeps dancing. In the next shot, we see a very steamed up car rocking back and forth. Inside the car, Begbie and the transvestite kiss and grope each other. Begbie feels male genitalia on her crotch, which he does not expect to be there. He freaks out, jumps out of the car, and starts kicking a wall. Renton’s voice-over ruminates on heterosexuality and homosexuality, saying there is no moral distinction between the two, but that no one could convince Begbie of that. In the next scene, Begbie sits on the bed in Renton’s room visibly distressed, while Renton sits in a corner, clearly amused by the situation. Begbie tries to tell Renton that he is not gay, and Renton wryly tells him, “it could have been wonderful.” Enraged by this, Begbie jumps off of the bed and attacks Renton, stabbing his knife into the wall between Renton’s legs and threatening to cut him if he mentions the situation again. They are interrupted by the doorbell.
In the next scene, we find out that Sick Boy was the one at the door. All three of them lie head to toe on Renton’s bed. Sick Boy and Begbie sleep peacefully, but Renton is wide-awake. Renton’s voice explains that Sick Boy has become a drug dealer and has come to London to set up contacts for his business. In the next scene, the three of them sit on Renton’s bed eating take-out fish and chips, and staring at the place where there used to be a TV. Renton is outraged that Sick Boy sold Renton’s TV without asking him while Renton was at work. Sick Boy is unapologetic. As Renton sits staring ahead in disbelief, Sick Boy takes Renton’s fish off of his lap. He goes on to ask Renton if he is interested in selling him his passport. In the next scene, Renton locks his passport in a lockbox somewhere in the city while his narration explains that his two friends never did anything except sit around his apartment looking for things to steal. He resolves to get rid of them.
His voice-over tells us that he has decided to put them in “the worst place in the world,” and the next scene shows them standing in the entryway of the apartment shown during the real-estate montage, which seems to have been unsellable. He throws them the keys and walks away. Renton cleans his apartment now that the other two are gone. In the next shot, Renton’s boss is showing a young couple the apartment. Begbie and Sick Boy jump out of a high up storage space, screaming, to try and scare away the renters. The frame freezes as Renton’s narration tells us, “that was that.” He goes on to say that the other reason for the three friends to return to Edinburgh was that Tommy had died.
During Renton’s HIV test, we catch a glimpse of the way that most of society views him: the nurse has no patience for his pained reaction to her needle, when he is only there in the first place because he was voluntarily using needles for a long time. Their long stare also echoes the stare between Renton and the judge, connecting these two scenes as examples of Renton’s conflict with authority figures that represent the "straight world," society at large. Others’ resentment of Renton and his friends is magnified two scenes later, when we see the graffiti on Tommy’s apartment calling him “scum” and referring to his HIV as “plague.” As Renton explains that he tested negative for HIV, against the odds, we are shown an image of him looking incredibly depressed at the pub, indicating further guilt for his luck. Additionally, his admission that after withdrawal he will struggle with depression is the first time he links his drug use to a mental health problem, rather than writing it off as a choice. It underlines some of the reasons our characters use drugs as an escape from their lives, and demonstrates some growth by Renton over the course of the film—he is more self-aware now than the Renton that opened the film by saying “there are no reasons.”
At Tommy’s we see a reiteration of the use of human waste to represent biological decay. Tommy has fallen to addiction and contracted HIV, and the outside of his apartment is covered in garbage and smeared with what appears to be feces. When we see Tommy, his appearance suggests physical decay—he has lost a ton of muscle mass and weight, he looks pale and sickly, and his eyes are bloodshot. His physical decay is made all the starker by how much more fit he was than the rest of the friends at the start of the film. When Renton plays with Tommy’s soccer ball while Tommy lies on the mattress, it highlights Tommy’s loss of athleticism and strength. When they stop for a moment as Renton hands Tommy the money, we catch a brief glimpse of recognition by Renton that he might be responsible for Tommy’s situation.
Diane’s reappearance in her school uniform, immediately following Renton’s visit with Tommy, reminds the audience of yet another mistake that Renton made. Though he initially seems to want her to leave, the abrupt cut to the two of them sharing a joint, naked, indicates that he decided to sleep with her again. This decision makes it hard for the audience to forgive him for not realizing how young she was the first time, and draws into question his shock when he found out. Her mockery of his interests (such as Iggy Pop) further draws out their age difference and the problems with it. Finally, though he narrates that his decision to leave for London was in response to Diane’s suggestion that he try something new, the timing indicates that he wants an escape from his life there—it immediately follows two confrontations with his past mistakes.
The London montage is a perfect example of the way the images reflect Renton’s point of view, and the way the film itself embodies his voice in more than just the narration. The frenzy and excitement of the video gives a sense of Renton’s new job and lifestyle, and the positivity that this change has brought to his life. It is also somewhat campy, delivering this new positive vibe in a tongue-in-cheek manner. As the montage carries into the images of his new real-estate job, we find the speed of Renton’s work and life to reflect the London montage. Additionally, Renton is happy, healthy, and contributing to society for the first time in the film, though he does downplay his contribution to society, asserting that the job is a means of cheating consumers. We do see aspects of the job that involve some lying and salesmanship, which make sense as the parts of the job that his character would like, but it is still notable that what finally brings him happiness was his choice to flee his friends and find a job and a life that he enjoys, despite his critique of “choosing” such things at the outset of the film.
Diane’s letter, and Renton’s contented expression while reading it, indicates that the two are carrying on with some form of relationship, and that Renton no longer has any qualms about sleeping with Diane, despite her age. The descriptions and images of Renton’s friends, conveyed in the letter, show that their paths carried on in predictably negative ways, strengthening the audience’s feeling that Renton needed to, and finally did, escape their influence. Renton’s conclusion that Begbie is at the door shows us how well he knows his friends, and his immediate change in expression indicates that Begbie’s presence will bring an end to his happy time in London. Begbie’s pointing of the fake gun at Renton magnifies his violent manner in general and his oppressive effect on Renton in the scenes that follow. The montage of Begbie’s behavior and Renton’s frustration contrasts with the previous montage of Renton’s work, to draw out the negative influence that Begbie has on his happiness. Renton’s line about Begbie being a mate, now repeated for the third time in the film, epitomizes his attitude toward his friends for most of the film—they have a history together and Renton feels unable to change them or resist them.
In the club scene, Renton seems content while dancing alone and does not seek out anyone to have sex with, which, when compared to the first club scene, seems to suggest a deeper interest in Diane that prevents him from pursuing others. We also see a rare moment of amicability between Renton and Begbie, when Begbie gestures to Renton about the woman and Renton cheers him on. However, this moment is quickly sullied when Begbie finds out that she is a transvestite, and Renton angers him by flippantly joking about it. Begbie’s encounter, and his reaction to it, imply that he might actually be gay—he is immediately defensive and adamant about his sexually, indicating a degree of denial and fear of his sexuality. Additionally, it is surprising given Begbie’s habitual violence for him not to issue any violence against the transvestite in his car; he seems overcome with fear, rather than hatred, which suggest he is afraid of his own sexual preferences. Additionally, Begbie’s response to Renton’s joke about how sex with the transvestite “could have been wonderful,” is extreme; though it is true that Begbie’s reactions are often over-the-top, this may provide further evidence of an overly defensive attitude toward his sexuality. Meanwhile, Renton’s take on sexuality and gender expression in the narration earns him some appreciation among modern audiences, especially when contrasted with Begbie, as intelligent and open-minded. However, audiences might have received this differently at the time, when public opinion about homosexuality was still recovering from the AIDS epidemic. It can therefore also be seen, especially considering Renton’s tone when narrating this scene, as a demonstration of Renton’s apathy toward society.
Renton’s life is further disrupted when Sick Boy shows up. The interference with Renton’s happiness in London by Sick Boy and Begbie reaffirms their roles as the most negatively influential of his friends. Both of them use him for their own needs, without considering his needs or feelings, and the advantage they take of him and his hospitality makes this clearer than it has been up to this point. Renton can barely comprehend Sick Boy’s selfish decision to sell Renton’s TV after Renton has been hospitable to him. However, it also recalls Renton’s theft of Tommy’s video, when Renton was visiting Tommy's apartment. Sick Boy’s defense that “he needed the money,” though it does not really help Sick Boy’s case, highlights the way that Renton’s theft was worse—Renton did not need the video for any reason, and still he stole it and contributed to Tommy’s downfall. We can see that Renton’s frustration and distrust of his friends reaches a peak when he decides to buy a lockbox to store important belongings, like his passport. Finally, Renton’s decision to move them out of his apartment and into the unsellable apartment, and their getting caught, demonstrates their negative influence not only on Renton's personal happiness but also on his success and employment.