Set in 1969, the year in which the hippy dreams of so many young Englishmen went sour, 1986's Bruce Robinson's Withnail and I
is an enduring British cult. Fellow enthusiasts cry immortal phrases from the endlessly brilliant script to one another like mating calls; "Scrubbers!", "We want the finest wines known to humanity and we want them now!" Withnail is played by the emaciated but defiantly effete Richard E Grant, "I" (i.e., Marwood) by Paul McGann. Out-of-work actors living in desperate penury in a rancid London flat, their lives are a continual struggle to keep warm, alive and in Marwood's case sane, until the pubs open. A sojourn in the country cottage of Withnail's gay Uncle Monty only redoubles their privations--they have to kill a live chicken to eat. The arrival of Monty spells further misery for Marwood as he must fend off his attentions. This borderline homophobic interlude apart, Withnail and I
is a delight, enhanced by an aimless but appallingly eventful plot. Popular among students, it strikes a chord with anyone who has undergone a period of debauchery and impoverished squalor prior to finding their way onto life's straight and narrow.--David Stubbs
Withnail and I is a 1987 black comedy film produced by HandMade Films. It was written and directed by Bruce Robinson and is based on his life in London in the late 1960s. The main plot follows two unemployed young actors, Withnail and "I" (portrayed by Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann) who live in a squalid flat in Camden Town in 1969 while waiting for their careers to take off. Needing a holiday, they obtain the key to the country cottage in the Lake District belonging to Withnail's flamboyantly gay uncle Monty and drive there. The holiday is less 'recuperative' than they expected.
The role of Withnail was Grant's first film and launched him into a successful career. The film also featured performances by Richard Griffiths as Withnail's Uncle Monty and Ralph Brown as Danny the drug dealer. The film has tragic and comic elements (particularly farce) and is notable for its period music and many quotable lines. It has been described as "one of Britain's biggest cult films".