1969. Two out of work actors escape their frustrating existence in a London flat and go on holiday to the country. That’s it. But it is the film most deserving of it’s mythical status and fanatical cult following that we know. It is a national treasure. A favourite cousin remembered with love, distraction and (sometimes uncontrollable) giggling.
From a blurry alcoholic haze, Bruce Robinson created some of the most memorable characters, lines and scenes to bless the Silver Screen. Richard E Grant as the flamboyant but desperate Withnail, Richard Griffiths (sadly recently deceased) as the predatory Uncle Monty and Ralph Brown as Danny the Dealer are all unforgettable. And their lines – always delivered perfectly – are touched with genius, with bohemian abstraction. The scenes are similarly inspired: remember “Lighter Fluid” or “Fishing”, the “Camberwell Carrot” or the “Tea Room”. But we just have to mention “I’m making time!” when “I” wakes up in the back seat of the beaten-up MkII Jaguar, with an intoxicated Withnail hurtling down the motorway to Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix on the soundtrack.
As students, aspiring writers, musicians or, of course, thespians, we saw that, if these characters weren’t our alter egos, we knew them well. Part of the film’s attraction was that these extraordinary people were very real in our young lives. A unique film for all the right reasons. Beautiful, really.
If you are in the UK, Withnail and I is being shown on Film 4 on Friday 26th April at 12.20 am – technically that’s Saturday the 27th.