Withnail and I (1987)

withnail and i poster 1987 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting : 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Clever dialogue, nice locations, good cast

Story is more about the dialogue

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Withnail and I

Studio:  Cineplex-Odeon Films

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  April 10, 1987

MPAA Rating:  R

withnail and i gun bed paul mcgann richard e grant

The rifle stays with me

Two unemployed actors (Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann) decide they must get out of London and decide to holiday in the countryside by means of Withnail’s uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths).  Withnail and his friend simply aren’t cut out for country living and the struggles of the city follow them…along with Uncle Monty who only has eyes for his nephew’s friend.

Written and directed by Bruce Robinson, Withnail and I is a British comedy and based upon an unpublished novel by Robinson.  The film gained a cult following upon its release and was well received by critics.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #119).

Withnail and I is a film that grows on you.  I first entered the film not knowing much about it other than it was a cult film, and I was a bit disappointed by it.  Knowing where the film is going and what the film is about, it is easier to rewatch Withnail and I to listen more to the dialogue.

withnail and i hunting fish richard e grant

Best way to hunt fish

The script feels built around mini-stories and at points feels very episodic.  The core carrying the parts together is the relationship between Withnail and “I” (which though not really named is named Marwood as seen in a letter).  Marwood constantly gives in to Withnail and is forgiving because they are friends…but the end sees Marwood moving on with Withnail’s fate more uncertain.  Most of the film you feel bad for McGann’s character who is the brunt of Withnail’s behavior, but at the end, you feel sorry for Withnail who isn’t moving forward.

The movie was the first film role for both Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann.  They play well off each other and both actors had to fight for their roles with a lot of demand for the parts.  Despite the good chemistry of the two actors the scene stealer could arguably be the lecherous Monty played by Richard Griffiths or even the drug dealing (bad) philosopher Danny played by Ralph Brown.

withnail and i paul mcgann richard griffiths

Monty, you’re trying to seduce me…aren’t you?

The movie looks good.  Though it is set in 1969, the film seems pretty timeless.  With the great countryside surrounding them, it almost feels like a City Slickers type of story (or even a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court).  The characters are not only out of place because of their culture, but they don’t even look like they fit in (as seen in the tea room).

Withnail and I is an extremely English film.  The humor and comedy is in line with a lot of comedy that makes it to the United States.  The movie plays out much more like a play than a film and the humor is more Shakespearian in its dialogue and delivery.  This can entertain or frustrate viewers who might be expecting a laugh-out-loud type of film.  Come to Withnail and I for the banter and enjoy a fun romp in the English countryside.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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