It's London in the mid-60s and two young actors living on the edge of reality decide to go for a small retreat in the countryside. The rest is history...
Apparently, right now, an episode of Star Trek is being broadcast somewhere around the world. But so what? Far more impressive is the thought that, at this very moment, another group of happy campers are settling down in front of the telly to watch a video of Withnail And I. All of them as drunk as skunks.
Even re-released on the big screen to celebrate the film's tenth anniversary, it has to be said that, for a cult movie, Withnail has a less than tantalising premise. Set at the fag-end of the 60s, the film opens with two dissolute, unemployed actors - Withnail (Grant) and 'I' (McGann, the story's narrator who is never referred to by name in the film, but for anoraks, was named Marwood in the screenplay) - who become fed up with their squalid London abode and convince Withnail's ultra-camp uncle Monty (Griffiths) to lend them the keys to his country cottage.
Unfortunately, the rural retreat turns out to be a freezing hell-hole and, to make matters worse, Monty unexpectedly turns up and begins flirting with a decidedly reluctant 'I'. Eventually, our heroes arrive back at the Big Smoke to have, well, a big smoke. And, as far as plot goes, that's about it.
Okay, so there are drink and drugs and groovy 60s music. Moreover, Grant and McGann are excellent throughout. But what has really given Withnail its enduring appeal is Bruce Robinson's script. Crammed with a ready-made lexicon of off-beat catch phrases ("Don't you threaten me with a dead fish!" etc.) Withnail And I seesaws between hilarity and tragedy in a manner that doesn't waste a single slurred syllable. The end result is not only incredibly funny but also one of the saddest, sharpest and, hell, downright educational movies ever made.
Fans can mouth the words of Grant's big speeches along with him, relishing every viperish turn of phrase...this is and always will be a perfect dark comedy and a student staple.