Choose unfulfilled promise and wishing you'd done it all differently. Choose never learning from
your own mistakes. Choose watching history repeat itself. Choose the slow reconciliation towards
what you can get, rather than what you always hoped for. Settle for less and keep a brave face on it.
Twenty years after stealing £16,000 in drug money from his friends and making a new life in Amsterdam, 46-year old Mark Renton returns to Edinburgh after suffering a heart attack in a gym. Though clean from heroin, he is on the verge of divorce and job redundancy. Daniel "Spud" Murphy has returned to heroin addiction after losing everything, including his wife, Gail, and visitation with his teenage son, Fergus, whom he fathered shortly after Renton left. Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson abuses cocaine, runs a failing pub, and engages in blackmail schemes with his Bulgarian girlfriend, Veronika. Francis "Franco" Begbie is serving a 25-year prison sentence following the drug deal, and attacks his lawyer after being denied parole.
Renton visits Spud just in time to save him from a suicide attempt, and offers to help him overcome his addiction. Renton visits Sick Boy at his pub, but reunion initially goes sour and they get into a fight. Afterward, Renton meets Veronika and pays Sick Boy back his original share of the money. Sick Boy informs Veronika that he is going to string Renton along and make him pay for his betrayal.
Begbie escapes from prison, and returns to his girlfriend's flat, where he meets his college-bound son, Frank Jr., whom he forces to join him in burgling houses. Begbie visits Sick Boy, who pretends to have heard of Renton living in Amsterdam and promises to provide Begbie with a false passport so he can travel to the Netherlands to exact his revenge.
Renton, Sick Boy and Veronika fraudulently apply for a £100,000 European Union business development grant to turn the upper floor of the pub into a brothel. Veronika and Renton begin an affair, while Spud joins in the renovation and befriends Veronika, who inspires him to write his memoirs. One of Sick Boy's blackmail targets reports him to the police, and Renton seeks legal advice from his ex-girlfriend, Diane, now a successful solicitor. The proceeds of their crimes are used up in legal fees and Sick Boy's cocaine addiction. Renton manages to escape from Begbie after a chance encounter at a nightclub, but not before Begbie slashes him with a knife. Renton and Sick Boy are kidnapped by Doyle, owner of a rival brothel, who drives them to the countryside and intimidates them into abandoning their scheme, leaving them to walk back to Edinburgh naked.
Begbie visits Spud, and in reading his memoirs, discovers that Renton left Spud his share of the money. Veronika arrives and Begbie steals her phone, which he uses to text Renton and Sick Boy to come to the pub at midnight. Veronika takes Spud to her apartment and asks him to leave with her, promising him half of the £100,000. Spud is afraid he will spend it on heroin again, so she offers to give his share to Gail and Fergus. He helps transfer the money to Veronika’s account by forging Renton's and Sick Boy's signatures. After reading another excerpt of Spud's writings about their encounter with Begbie's alcoholic father in the derelict Leith Central railway station, Begbie visits his girlfriend's flat for the last time, apologising to Frank Jr. for his abuse and telling him to be a better man than he or his father were.
At the pub, Spud arrives too late to warn Renton and Sick Boy of Begbie's trap. Begbie knocks Sick Boy unconscious and chases Renton across the upstairs floor. He throws Renton through the floor, leaving him suspended by the neck from electrical wiring; Begbie tries strangle him, but Sick Boy douses him with pepper spray and saves Renton. Begbie pulls out a sawn-off shotgun and tries to kill them both, but Spud knocks him out with a toilet bowl.
They leave Begbie in the boot of Sick Boy's car outside the prison. Veronika returns to her son in Bulgaria. Spud puts together a book of memoirs and mends his relationship with Fergus and Gail, who suggests a title (implied to be the novel Trainspotting). Renton and Sick Boy resume their old friendship. Renton moves back into his widowed father's home and embraces him in reconciliation, before going to his bedroom and dancing to a remix of "Lust for Life".
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