Review: Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy

Upon arriving in cinemas in 1996, Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting redefined the drug movie genre. Although much of its success stemmed from the director’s inventive elucidation of the material as well as the impeccable cast, the influence of the author’s work was instrumental in elevating the film to cult classic status. In the years that followed, many features–Human Traffic, Go and Groove among them–have strived to emulate its style, with The Acid House again mining the writer’s content. The inclusion of his name in the title provides a clear indication that Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy is the latest offering to appropriate his prose, in an effort desperate to recreate the best of his oeuvre.

Adapting the novella The Undefeated from the book that gives the film its title, Rob Heydon’s debut feature tells a love story framed by chemical substances. Lloyd (Adam Sinclair, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj) lives a life fuelled by artificial highs, whilst Canadian office worker Heather (Kristin Kreuk, TV’s Smallville) seeks an escape from her loveless marriage. Their paths intersect at a dance party organised by Lloyd, as he endeavours to sell pills to repay a debt to drug baron Solo (Carlo Rota, Saw V). As romance blossoms, Heather becomes ensconced in his world, complete with smuggling jaunts, unwell relatives and friends (The Lord of the RingsBilly Boyd and Punisher: War Zone’s Keram Malicki-Sánchez) looking for something more.

Touching upon connections made on the dance floor, elaborate heist ventures and prolonged struggles with addiction, Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy is awash in narrative similarities to its thematic predecessor. Alas, whilst such resemblance is expected given their common author, writer/director Heydon and his co-scribe Ben Tucker amplify the likeness in the structure and execution. From the upbeat opening monologue to the presentation of club sequences, and including its treatment of character introductions and sex scenes, the feature is obvious in its attempts to imitate Trainspotting’s style. Sadly, its efforts to duplicate only draw attention to its deficiencies, with the current film faring poorly in the comparison.

Indeed, Heydon limits rather than expands Welsh’s emotive work, shifting focus to Lloyd and reducing Heather to mere romantic fodder. In doing so, he relies upon visual and voiceover clichés to evoke mood and meaning, yet fails to capture the film’s central contrast of contentment in its drug-induced and sober forms. Although capably acted – with Boyd the most accomplished, and Whose Line Is It Anyway?’s Colin Mochrie making appearance – the performances  are unable to improve the average effort. Its fondness for the writer and the drug film genre may be evident; however neither can turn Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy into anything more than an inferior homage.

Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy was released in Australia on April 25th.

Directors: Rob Heydon

Cast: Adam Sinclair, Kristin Kreuk, Carlo Rota

About Sarah Ward

Sarah Ward has been enthralled by film for as long as she can remember, and possibly longer than that. A compulsive consumer of all things movie-related, the Brisbane-based freelance film critic, writer and festival devotee spends her days obsessing over film festivals, and her evenings critiquing the latest cinema releases, with her written contributions popping up at Arts Hub, At The Cinema, KOFFIA, the Spanish Film Festival and Trespass, of course. She also dabbles on her own site (http://www.playslashpause.com/) and tweets at @swardplay.