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United Kingdom 1986
Directed by
Bruce Robinson
108 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Withnail And I

From the opening mood-settting scene in which we watch Paul McGann (the “I” of the title, aka Marwood, and writer/director Robinson’s alter ego) quietly fretting to the evocative strains of King Curtis’s version of A Whiter Shade Of Pale to the closing scene with Richard E. Grant walking away from the camera alone in the rain¸ Withnail And I is an almost perfectly-judged tragi-comedy that received little attention when it was released but since, thanks to home video players, has justly attained cult status.

Originally written as a novel by Robinson, the character of Withnail was based on a friend, Vivian Mackerall, from their days as aspiring actors in the 1960s. More character than narrative driven, the story largely concerns the lads' escape from London to Withnail's uncle's farmhouse for a weekend getaway.

Grant, in his second film appearance, is outstanding as Withnail, but Paul McGann and Richard Griffiths as Uncle Monty are equally good in their respective roles and Ralph Brown completes a memorable quartet as Danny, the drug-dealing master of "The Camberwell Carrot". As a depiction of the wasted world of the late 60s the film has never been bettered and probably never will be.

BTW: In the novel, after farewelling Marwood, Withnail returns to their flat and commits suicide. Although he has never had as much success as a director since, Robinson was nominated for an Oscar for his script for The Killing Fields (1984).

DVD Extras: Umbrella Entertainment's 2-disc release has 2 separate audio commentaries; one by Bruce Robinson, the other by Paul McGann and Ralph Brown; Postcards From Penrith in which a couple of fans head to the location of the lad's country holiday; Bruce Robinson Interview; Withnail & Us a 1999 documentary; Behind-the-Scenes Stills by Ralph Steadman; Swear-a-thon; Theatrical Trailer; Withnail & I Film Score.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment

 

 

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