No, seriously, how did I now know about this till now?
I don’t know how to feel. One the one hand, the shot-for-shot parallels make this feel like nostalgia porn. On the other hand, Irvine Welsh did write a sequel called Porno, so there is a legit basis for the movie.
I’m scared they’re gonna wreck it. But I’ve watched the trailer five times in the past 24 hours. Oh hell. You know I’m gonna see it!
As Renton might say:
Choose sequels. Choose a money grab. Choose movie tie-in covers. Choose to exploit the nostalgia of a generation that has few things to be nostalgic about. Choose to name drop apps and social media to attract a new audience. Choose to adapt an inferior novel and see if magic will happen twice. Choose a good soundtrack – you set the bar pretty high there.
But why choose to watch the movie, when you can choose to read the book?
My rating: 3/5 stars
Potato Island, Nova Scotia, is a quiet place sheltered from the problems of the outside world. When Ian McKendrie, a young man from Toronto, arrives and begins selling the products of his small meth lab, the Islanders are anxious to rid the Island of this scourge.
The judge in Halifax sees things differently. He sentences McKendrie to house arrest on the Island with conditions that seem no punishment at all. So, when an opportunity presents itself, the Islanders decide to take the law into their own hands and impose a few “conditions” of their own.
I have an appreciation for drug stories that goes back to Evelyn Lau’s Runaway, read as a preteen and before I’d smoked a cigarette, let alone anything else. By the time I saw Trainspotting at seventeen, I’d done plenty. My parents objected to renting the movie because it glorified drug use, but it actually scared me off trying hard drugs. The “baby on the ceiling” hallucination scene may look kind of ridiculous by today’s special effects standards, but it was a pretty effective deterrent in my case.
Other drug and addiction books that I love: The Basketball Diaries, Heather O’Neill’s Lullabies for Little Criminals, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, A Clockwork Orange, Go Ask Alice, every other Irvine Welsh books I’ve ever read. Oh, and Spun, which is a movie but relevant because it’s specifically about meth and absolutely horrifying. So that’s my frame of reference.
Why Here? is a a drug story. Addicts, dealers, and law enforcement dance around each other in a tiny isolated community, till the community’s had enough and regular folks turn vigilante. The premise is very similar to Ferguson’s first novel, From Away (my review), but this story succeeds in ways that From Away didn’t – the writing is fresher, and the stakes are higher. I really like how the older adults were the heroes; not the twenty-something drug dealers or the teenage drug addicts, but the people in their 50s and 60s who’d had enough. And the ending was great. I almost thought it was headed towards the “special moment” 90s sitcom ending, but then it was suddenly open ended and hopeless or hopeful, depending on your perspective.
Ferguson took some risks; however, the story just isn’t gritty enough. All those drug books I’ve read have given me certain expectations. I want devastating relapses, and sweaty, hallucinating withdrawals. I want the manic filth of “Spun.” I want Trainspotting‘s baby on the ceiling. I needed something harrowing or horrible to believe that this community would take the law into their own hands. That, or I need a strong lead character to hang that belief on, and I didn’t quite find that in the ensemble cast.
After two books with similar settings and themes, I’m left wondering about the author’s intentions. Are these morality tales? Celebration or condemnation of small town, maritime culture? I await Ferguson’s next move.
Thank you to the author for the review copy!
I ended up watching a bunch of scenes from Spun while writing this review. As stylized and dated as this movie is, it’s worth a watch.
Two times this year, a book has let me down by not being dark enough. I felt like the authors held back to make things a little more palatable – The main characters got off too lightly. There wasn’t enough at stake. Things resolved themselves a little too neatly.
I don’t like it when a story feels reigned in. I want the characters to hit bottom and keep falling.
I do feel a little guilty about this. Why do I want bad things to happen to good characters, and why do I roll my eyes at a happy ending? Schadenfreude? Shock value? Or, am I not quite over my goth phase of 1996-1997? I think it’s a bit of all of those things. I need an emotional connection to really enjoy a story, and the dark and depressing route is the easiest way to my heart.
Here are the two examples that came up this year, the darker alternatives I found, and even more dark recommendations for the long winter nights ahead. BONUS: All four books featured below are by Canadian authors!