IRVINE WELSH’S ECSTASY. Starring Adam Sinclair, Kristin Kreuk, Billy Boyd and Carlo Rota. Directed by Rob Heydon. 98 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong drug themes, drug use, sex scene and coarse language).
Irvine Welsh is famous for his books, especially about the world of drugs. Trainspotting became a cult film by Danny Boyle which was followed by Paul McGuigan’s The Acid House. A film version of Welsh’s novel Filth was set to follow Ecstasy. With Ecstasy, as the title immediately suggests, he is back in the drug world.
While this is a Canadian production, the exteriors were filmed in Edinburgh where the story is set. With so much of the filming done on the streets of the city, those who know the city will find it very familiar, giving the film an authentic feel. Interiors were filmed in Canada with some Canadian cast.
However, the central role is taken by Scot Adam Sinclair. He plays 28 year old Lloyd Buist, no job, man about town, especially at the clubs where he loves to dance, involved at times as a drug courier, with trips to Amsterdam, spending drug-high time with his close friends. No future, only the present.
For the first half hour, we are immersed in the club world, the music, the noise, the sex, the drugs. We begin to feel that if this is all the ecstasy world can offer, it would be better to leave. The appeal would be only to clubbers who wanted to see images of themselves on screen.
However, with some relief for us, a few human feelings are eventually introduced. Lloyd loves his old father (an interesting performance from Stephen McHattie) who is still grieving his wife’s death, drinking and diagnosed with cancer. Lloyd is not without some redemptive values. However, even though he becomes attracted to a visiting Canadian woman (Kristin Kreuk) and is offered the possibility to change, he can’t do it. He is in debt to the deputy to the Edinburgh drug boss, a merciless brute with thug henchmen, who is not above bashing Lloyd’s girlfriend. Lloyd is forced to go on another trip to Amsterdam, buys some extra drugs to sell and pay off his debts. He swallows the bags – and they burst on the flight back home. He still gets through passport control as he is disguised as a priest.
The trouble for Lloyd is that he lacks vision, the possibilities for an alternate life. His girlfriend finally gives up on him.
One of Lloyd’s friends, Woodsy, is played by Billy Boyd as an obsessed ecstasy-taker, an ecstasy-devourer, an apostle for the drugs, who is taken off to hospital and rehabilitation. He clashes with a priest which gives him the chance to sound off against God and to declare that the drugs are the means of salvation.
While watching the clubbing can be wearying, the film moves to something of a moralising end, especially with the death and funeral of Lloyd’s father. Whether it would convert characters like Woodsy, it is difficult to say – though there is Woodsy sitting in the front row at the funeral. With Irvine Welsh’s name as part of the title, it is definitely an immersion in an Irvine Welsh world.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out April 25, 2012.