Withnail and I


Oh Richard E. Grant. How do you do it? For his first film role, his portrayal of posh, drunken, but ultimately lovable, Withnail, is more than perfect (if that is possible). It could not be valued in pounds, nor dollars, though maybe in a vast amount of alcohol. And not forgetting Paul McGann, as tolerating and poetic ‘I’ or Marwood. I think we can all agree, those two did a bloody fine job.

Now I’ve got that out of my system…onto the film.

 Firstly, before you get the wrong idea, I absolutely adore this film. It, to me, encapsulates what micro-budget, British film-making is all about: quirky characters living life in whatever way they want; two fingers to the world and enough booze to keep a car running four times around the M25. But something was nagging me, itching at my skull for at least a third of the film. Was it the confined space of their vilest of housing? The built up anger of Withnail, flooding the scenes with intoxicating gloom? Maybe the annoying understanding of Marwood, an emotion I would never be able to show in that situation, caring about his daft idiot of a friend even what he is an absolute tool?

But no. I realised, I unashamedly love all these things.

 So what was it?
And bam. It hit me.

The shot of Withnail, walking through a field with his coat blowing in the wind, Marwood following closely behind, trying to keep up with his huge footsteps. Something seems familiar…

Withnail and I are Sherlock and John. Holmes and Watson.

Their half messy, half eclectic flat, with that mix of gothic and clasic style pieces; the way Withnail waltzes around in his long gown or coat, driving Marwood (or should I say, John) to the point of dismay through incessant ramblings and an unhealthy addiction to alcohol; the way that, ultimately, they are best friends and do, whether it is clear to others or not, understand each other. All these points – if you replace the alcohol with drugs or cigarettes and, I suppose, add a mystery to their trip to the countryside, a hound, perhaps – are Holmes and Watson embodied.

 Now, I’m only talking from limited knowledge of Sherlock Holmes a.k.a a proud obsession with the BBC’s TV series, starring the infamous Cumberbatch and Freeman. It feels like their set designers have sat down and thought, right, let’s channel that. And their stylists have gone that, but more modern.

If you haven’t got a sense of what the film is about from these ramblings, I have fulfilled my purpose. There isn’t necessarily a structured narrative. It’s utterly mad but completely hilarious, so watch it.  And just to show you I’m not a girl who says but doesn’t do, I have ceremoniously changed my desktop background to a delightful picture of drunk Withnail. “Honestly, I’ve only had a few ales.” So there. Watch it.


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