Withnail & I (1988)

Two unemployed actors go on a disastrous country weekend in Bruce Robinson’s cult comedy tribute to the horrors of friendship.

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“To pronounce oneself immune to the charms of Withnail & I is to declare oneself a philistine, a Puritan and a snob.”
Kevin Jackson, Withnail & I, 2004

Set at the fag-end of the 1960s, Bruce Robinson’s comedy of bad manners sees two struggling twentysomething actors – flamboyant, melancholic narcissist Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and his unnamed, unassuming friend (Paul McGann) – pursue booze, recreation, work and the meaning of life in Camden Town and the Lake District.

Based on Robinson’s own experiences, this labour of love achieved cult status on the strength of its endlessly quotable dialogue and brilliantly eccentric performances (notably Richard Griffiths’ Uncle Monty and Ralph Brown’s Danny the dealer). The beautifully sodden photography and a cannily evocative pop soundtrack help fix the mood. The film is a testament to the potency and sadness of friendship and the compromises required for the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

The script references Bruce Robinson’s own acting work in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968). Robinson and Grant reunited for How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989).

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