Watch it Again! Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)

Pop reviews and in-depth analyses of current and classic films from around the world.

Living disillusioned in a post-Brexit Instagram-filtered age, standing at the periphery of the job market in a state of horror as the surplus of impressive graduates wander by, it is easy to feel alone. Marwood is the voice of reason when he reassures Withnail “we’re in the same boat”; we are all Withnail when he fires back “Stop saying that! You’re not in the same boat. The only thing you’re in that I’ve been in is this fucking bath!”

When Robinson wrote and directed this largely autobiographical low-budget film in 1987, he did not anticipate that the trials, tribulations, and hilarious mishaps of Withnail and “I” (played respectively by Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann) would leave such a legacy. A coming-of-age comedy based on two hapless drunken out-of-work actors struggling through the bleak aftermath of the swinging sixties, the film offers a nostalgic yet ultimately unappealing portrait of the 1960s bohemian lifestyle. Living in squalor so intense they feel “unusual” when they enter the kitchen, the eccentric self-deluding thespian Withnail and the slightly more low-key narrator “I” (Marwood in the screenplay) are both disenchanted with life.

The appeal of Withnail and I lies in its ability to reflect our flaws and fears whilst making them indisputably funny. In the documentary Withnail and Us, Robinson himself sums up the timelessness of Withnail and I as a movie that “touches the moment we’ve all had when we’re all broke, all starving, all aspiring, and all knowing that it might not work in our lives.” As a final-year student I rejoice in the bleak realistic portrayal of a kitchen filled with unidentifiable matter, an unwavering belief in the curative powers of alcohol, and the general unease of aimless direction. Marwood’s maudlin realisation that they “are indeed drifting into the arena of the unwell” in tandem with Withnail’s “I feel like a pig shat in my head” are sentiments embarrassingly yet undeniably relatable.

“I have some extremely distressing news. We’ve just run out of wine.”

Withnail’s first utterance in his iconic sophisticated slur sets the perfect tone for Bruce Robinson’s unbeatably British, ingenious tragicomedy Withnail and ILast year marked the film’s 30th anniversary, and like a fine wine, Withnail and I has improved with age.

When Robinson wrote and directed this largely autobiographical low-budget film in 1987, he did not anticipate that the trials, tribulations, and hilarious mishaps of Withnail and “I” (played respectively by Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann) would leave such a legacy. A coming-of-age comedy based on two hapless drunken out-of-work actors struggling through the bleak aftermath of the swinging sixties, the film offers a nostalgic yet ultimately unappealing portrait of the 1960s bohemian lifestyle. Living in squalor so intense they feel “unusual” when they enter the kitchen, the eccentric self-deluding thespian Withnail and the slightly more low-key narrator “I” (Marwood in the screenplay) are both disenchanted with life.

The appeal of Withnail and I lies in its ability to reflect our flaws and fears whilst making them indisputably funny. In the documentary Withnail and Us, Robinson himself sums up the timelessness of Withnail and I as a movie that “touches the moment we’ve all had when we’re all broke, all starving, all aspiring, and all knowing that it might not work in our lives.” As a final-year student I rejoice in the bleak realistic portrayal of a kitchen filled with unidentifiable matter, an unwavering belief in the curative powers of alcohol, and the general unease of aimless direction. Marwood’s maudlin realisation that they “are indeed drifting into the arena of the unwell” in tandem with Withnail’s “I feel like a pig shat in my head” are sentiments embarrassingly yet undeniably relatable.

Continue reading at BRIGHTLIGHTSFILM: Watch it Again! Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987) – Bright Lights Film Journal

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