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Withnail & I

7.61 h 42 min198715
Richard E Grant & Paul McGann star in this deliciously dark cult comedy. Two alcoholic unemployed actors leave their squalid London flat for a holiday in the Lake District. It doesn't quite go to plan, of course. 1987
Richard E. GrantPaul McGannRichard Griffiths
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Supporting actors
Ralph BrownMichael ElphickDaragh O'MalleyMichael WardleUna Brandon-JonesNoel JohnsonIrene Sutcliffe
Arrow Films
Content advisory
Smokingalcohol usefoul languageviolence
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4.6 out of 5 stars

3143 global ratings

  1. 81% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 9% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 4% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

Robin BradfordReviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 July 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
One of the top 5 small time English cultural movies ever made.
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The plot is secondary. It really doesn't matter. It's of no real consequence any more than Holden Caulfield's wanderings along the streets of New York in search of his 'truth'.

Small works of artistic genius denotating cultural moments in time of a country are rare. Withnail and I written by Bruce Robinson is set in the late 1960's and was released as a film in 1987. Financing was complicated, assisted by Paul Heller, American Producer and George Harrison. Denis O'Brian (who didn't think much of the script) oversaw filming on behalf of HandMade Films and cost £1.1M. Bruce Robinson spent £30k of his £80k fee on addition filming that HomeMade Films never reimbursed him for.

Plot: Two English young men with aspirations of acting careers living off unemployment benefit in the squalor of a dingy London flat go off in search of escapism to a house in the countryside for a few days, only to be followed by their rich, rotund homosexual benefactor who owns the house.

As with Salinger's Catcher, Bruce Robinson had played around with his 'two struggling actors and a rich fat gay' theme for sometime. His secret was the screenwriting coupled with sublime casting that almost didn't happen! Paul McGann was axed for his Liverpudlian accent but reinvited back. Daniel Day Lewis and Bill Nighy were considered for the part of Withnail but what a joy that the relatively unknown actor Richard E Grant got the part instead.

The joy of this movie is probably it's very Englishness which does not travel well with viewers from other continents. But who the hell cares. There's enough Hollywood crap spewing from over the pond.

This quazi tragic comedy duo of no-hopers believing, or just about believing, in their destiny holds a strange irony that one of them may indeed succeed as an actor is, at the end of the film, quite indearing. But the interplay of these intelligent drop-outs coupled with the 'drooling eyes' of their gay benefactor lifts the whole play to a new level, quite unique to cinematic viewing.

A shame these unique scripts rarely see the light of day due to uncertain financial returns. However the financial worth of films if this ilk often extend over 50 years which is far longer than most.

Congratulations to all those involved in the acting and making of the film.
3 people found this helpful
Lady HahaReviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 February 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
British film making at its best
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The older I get the more I love this film, the writing is first rate with so many quotable phrases & Richard E. Grants delivery of them is second to none. Even though this film paints a very bleak picture of life it is hysterically funny. There is a 30minute film about the making of the film on the extras section with the writer/director Bruce Robinson & others, I implore you to watch it as it will allow you to enjoy the film even more.
21 people found this helpful
allen griffithsReviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 December 2018
1.0 out of 5 stars
Some things are just not right and make me suspicious about this DVD.
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Originally I was wanting a replacement for a CD which split, it had exactly this front cover and was previously purchased from a high street shop. I therefore expected it to be very similar or the same.
1. because something did not click right when ordering 4 different products together, I immediately attempted to cancel the whole order to start again and on only this product out of all 4 a message said it was too late. (strange because it was literally within 2 minutes. So I let this ride, thinking the DVD would be alright.
2. Despite the cover being exactly the same as my original when I eventually tried to watch it, although it worked there were no chapters just one whole film, which meant the only way was to watch it the whole way through without a break or stop it and then fast forward back from the beginning each time to approximately where the film was stopped, (very unsatisfactory).
3. There were no extra features like the original which had interviews and information regarding the characters it was based on. (very disappointing as they were all really interesting extras and the main reason i chose this particular copy).
4. When I examined the cover more closely it appeared to be a copy that had been reprinted on an inkjet printer as there was a watermark smudge mark as though it were an amateur reproduction and being suggestive of a kind of forgery.

All in all very poor
8 people found this helpful
philamoReviewed in the United Kingdom on 02 June 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Funny, outrageous and deeply moving.
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Everyone says its a comedy classic, partially true, but it's mainly sad and dreary - and that's fine, because life is. The deep sadness is all about endings, ending of the supply of alcohol, the cold, unemployment benefit, a holiday, an era, a friendship...
It has all the classic lines that make you laugh out loud and also all the ones you don't remember but make you feel like something has been lost. For me personally the most brilliant and deeply moving bit of the film is when "I" announces he's been offered a job, not just that, it's actually the lead role, and Withnall's (Richard E grant) smile is as fake and as sad as anything you'll ever see in your life, but you know he wishes his friend well. And if you've ever seen a friend rise up to a big job with a big salary you'll know like he did that the friendship will not survive. Funny, outrageous and deeply moving.
5 people found this helpful
CarterReviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 December 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Classic...
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"We've gone on holiday by mistake."
"Listen, we're bona fide, we're not from London."
"We want the finest wines available to humanity! ..."
"I feel like a pig shat in my head."
"These are the sort of windows faces look in at!"
"I assure you I'm not drunk, officer, honestly. I've only had a few ales."

And many, many more....
11 people found this helpful
CSquareReviewed in the United Kingdom on 09 June 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
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The term cult film is frequently misused and nn occasions mis-spelt with unfortunate consequences. Classic quotes include: Danny: "I don't advise a haircut, man. All hairdressers are in the employment of the government. Hair are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos, and transmit them directly into the brain. This is the reason bald-headed men are uptight." This is my third favourite movie of all time. As you ask, number one The Godfather - all of them except III of course, number two is a British Classic staring Peter Sellers as the trade union shop steward Fred Kite Quote:"Ahhh, Russia. All them corn fields and ballet in the evening.". I already had this on DVD but had to buy it to download from Amazon. You probably should do the same.....enjoy.
3 people found this helpful
J. AndersonReviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 July 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
...what a piece of work is man...
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It is 1969 and two unemployed actors leave London for a rejuvenating holiday in Cumbria. The film is about the ending of a friendship. Drugs, alcohol, egos and toxicity have taken their toll and although this scenario is a plaintive one there is much comedy around it. Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant, in his first screen role, are superb, whether bickering between themselves or interacting with the numerous memorable characters that inhabit their world. Richard Griffiths stands out as the eccentric and tragic figure of Withnail's uncle, who lends the two characters his cottage, but at a very steep price. Bruce Robinson's script is full of memorable lines and his direction brings out the best in his cast. At times it feels like a Hogarth painting brought to the screen such is its excess. At times the characters border on the grotesque but that is what gives it a very British feel. Some may feel it a little dated, or just not get it at all.
Simon HallReviewed in the United Kingdom on 07 July 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
You had to be there, and I wasn't.
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This is undoubtedly a remarkable film and knowing it is quite closely based on reality only makes it more remarkable.

The characters are my parents' generation and represent the tiny number of people who 'really experienced the 60s'. I grew up in Leeds in the 80s, where the consequences of free love and copious drug use were only just starting to break into the darkest corners of my consciousness.

Still, it's funny. The honophobia is now a little grating, but only a little. I'm sure these characters were progressive in their day.
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