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Trainspotting: Tommy

From clean-cut athlete to the horrors of heroin and HIV

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Tommy (Kevin McKidd) is Trainspotting's moral panic button. While the other characters seemingly waltz through their heroin habit coping with varying levels of addiction, Tommy's descent is rapid and fatal.

It's interesting to compare his representation in Irvine Welsh's original novel and the film. The screenplay is at pains to point out his innocence: "He never told lies, never took drugs and never cheated on anyone," says Renton's narration. However, in the book he is a regular amphetamine user, with a great thirst for alcohol - his transformation to heroin casualty is, therefore, less extreme.

It's Renton's theft of Tommy and Lizzy's homemade erotica that proves to be the final straw in the couple's relationship. This results in depression and a void in Tommy's life, which he decides to fill with heroin. His decline into addiction is played out behind the scenes, but when we see him again he has changed from fitness-conscious, clean-cut innocent to dilapidated junkie. Perhaps it was because he was new to heroin, or perhaps he just didn't consider the risks, but whatever the reason it is Tommy, and only Tommy, who contracts HIV.

If Trainspotting can in any way be accused of preaching, it's through this character. When he first persuades Renton to score him some heroin, Tommy says: "I want to try it... I'm a f***ing adult, I can find out for myself." Later, during Renton's detox hallucinations, he admits, "Oh, I found out all right." Tommy's story is the closest the film comes to taking a moral standpoint.

Paul Clarke

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