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Human Traffic Review

Will we ever escape the Danny Boyle influence? Hardly. Human Traffic may not toe the line of the Britpop-birthed reflection on youth culture, but it certainly makes its similar storyline stylings similar to that of Trainspotting. Where this Justin Kerrigan piece differentiates, though, is in the drugs its leading cast partake in. Junkies of a socially acceptable variety, the characters throughout Human Traffic don’t want trouble, they just want to live on and on with pills in their bellies and pints in their hands. No harm in that as long as its attitude towards the squares in the audience is plausible and respectful. No chance there, then… 

“Lucky, lucky people,” John Simm opens his fourth-wall-breaking monologue with. He is talking to you. And you. You as well. He is in pain because the life he leads and the choices he has made are less than satisfactory. He is “stressed to the max,” and to be fair, we cannot blame him. While Simm is always quality incarnate, his performance and the styling of his narration leave much to be desired. As he dons a “Mr. Floppy” t-shirt with a limp penis plastered to the front of it, the desire to be more than Trainspotting gets into the minds of its cast and crew. Rent-free it lies, waiting for some moment or piece of content that can lash out at the “squares” in the audience. It’s a massacre, and Human Traffic no coherent way of appealing to the right crowd. 

Especially not when its supporting cast is filled with odd choices and odder people. Of course, Danny Dyer’s inclusion always turns a head or two. His introduction in front of a cardboard Yoda cut-out and a Confederate flag. It sends mixed signals about Moff, the pill-headed party addict. He and his band of friends are imaginative caricatures of society. One is the ill-fated philosopher stuck in the dead-end job. Another is the man sick of the world. He, too, is stuck in a dead-end job. Human Traffic is more about escapism from soul-crushing work than it is about the risk and reward of a big night out on the town with three bags of drugs and eight pints of lager. Had it put the entertainment before its essence, then it’d have been at least palatable fun with a side order of intriguing topics displayed by the worst of young adult life.  

There was a point in my life where drinking was not a ritual or habit, it was a must. A horrid desire to head to a club, pub or bar. I miss it greatly, and Human Traffic at least admonished me for thinking that way. We do not miss the places we once travelled to, but the memories associated with them. Should we ever return to the familiar lanes which we used to frequent, we should be wary of the memories associated with them. They are, after all, memories. We change, the place does too. Human Traffic does a tremendous job of reflecting on that. But there are the obvious, inevitable comparisons to Trainspotting, and while skag and sickness aren’t at the heart of this Kerrigan directed piece, it may as well be. Interchangeable addictions and prying storylines are obvious, oblivious and obsolete as they all trundle through their glory days in dead-end jobs, dying relationships and demented friendships. Don’t we all? 

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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