11th Nov2014

‘Withnail and I’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths, Ralph Brown, Michael Elphick | Written and Directed by Bruce Robinson


I have a list of films inside my head that are ones that I haven’t seen yet, and each time I watch one of them I can tick them off.  Some of these sit there for years but deserve to be seen, and some I consider as a crime against my geekhood that I’ve not seen them yet.  One these is Withnail and I but the good news is that now that Arrow Video have released their limited edition of the film I’ve finally managed to see it, and it has become one of my favourite films.

Seen as a cult favourite popular with students, it tells the tale of Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and Marwood (the “and I” of the title, portrayed by Paul McGann).  Two unemployed actors they wait for their next job to appear, and where Marwood has the possibility of a role Withnail’s career seems to have stagnated meaning that he spends most of his time drunk.  Escaping from the pressure of London and their Camden flat they decide to take a holiday in the countryside at Withnail’s Uncle Monty’s (Richard Griffiths) country cottage.

Withnail and I is a film where there isn’t much of a plot but the characters make the film something special.  Withnail and Marwood are two characters that are easy for the audience to relate to, especially those who have been or are in their twenties and are having to face up to the realities of growing up and moving on with life.  Withnail as a character is the one the audience connects with and wants to be, even though he is something of a flawed person who is doomed to fail.  His insanely quotable script stemming from the writing of the director and writer Bruce Robinson there is so much life infused into him by Richard E. Grant that you can’t help but fall for him and what he represents (even if he is a bit obnoxious).

However crazy the situations in the film may be, the fact is the audience feels at home with Withnail, even though we may not be a failed actor, or even a heavy drinker (though some of us maybe).  Both Withnail and Marwood are looking for a way in life and when that path is found, people offer life experiences that are taken with them.  Whether its people like Danny (Ralph Brown) the drug dealer who turns up in their flat often randomly, or Uncle Monty and his overbearing infatuation with Marwood we are emotionally connected to the characters who are all odd ball enough to stick in our memories long after the film as ended, as do the words of advice they offer.

Arrow Video have provided fans with what could be the ultimate edition of the film, with a very good restoration, we also get Bruce Robinson’s follow-up How to Get Ahead in Advertising also looks excellent thanks to a new transfer from the original film elements.  With two commentary tracks for Withnail and I and the documentaries produced by Channel 4 for their Withnail Weekend there is plenty of special features for the fans to work their way through too.

Withnail and I is a film that people love, and people will love if they’ve not discovered it yet.  It’s one of those movies for the young of heart who just want to live without responsibility and for people who love outlandish characters.  With so many quotable lines and excellent performances from Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann, Withnail and I is a film that deserved the very best, and Arrow Video have provided it.

***** 5/5

Withnail and I is available in a limited edition dual format DVD and Blu-ray now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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