Withnail & I is a British film directed by Bruce Robinson about two young barely-in-work actors living in squalor and despondence who decide to take a holiday to a relative’s house in order to “recuperate”, to use their own words. It’s classified as a black comedy, although it is much more black than comedic.
I have rarely seen a more depressing looking film. This is a great example of production value being used in the negative spectrum; each location has its share of decrepitude about it, and each scene threatens to envelop you in bleakness and squalor. This is truly an unforgiving film in material and subject. It works, though; the film keeps your attention and doesn’t let you drown in it. The two main players each have their quirks and personality traits that make them characters indeed, and the actors playing them (Paul McGann and especially Richard Grant) bring them to a head wonderfully, and the consummate Richard Griffiths is delightful as the flamboyant Uncle Monty.
I don’t know if I can recommend this to a general audience, but certain connoisseurs will definitely get a lot out of this one. It has a certain charm to it that’s hard to ignore, even when it’s flouting its exposition in your face with reckless abandon. If you want a soggy film with very dark British sensibilities, this will happily be your cup of tea.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10