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    When I was sixteen years old, my sister gave me a film called Withnail and I. “Watch this” she said, “You’ll really like the ‘I’ character – he reminds me of you”. Like Marwood I reflected on life and wrote down my thoughts, later training as an actor and treading the boards. Yet like Monty and subsequently Withnail, I never played the Dane. In my early twenties my scripts were traded in for a pen and blank sheet of paper, on which my career as a writer began. However, the one thing that never changed was my love for Withnail and I. As I grew, so did my affection for the words that resonated so much with my own experiences. It is this affection that brought me and so many fans to the ODEON Liverpool ONE, to finally experience the film on the silver screen.

     

    As part of the Liverpool Comedy Festival, the feeling of excitement was abundant in the room as everyone shared their favourite quotes.  “We want the finest wines available to humanity!” could be heard, while the anticipation for the event grew. Millions of films have been released across the world, but there are none quite like Withnail and I. It is an intriguing blend of both simplicity and intricacy - Two friends in the countryside or as they would say, a holiday that they have gone on by mistake. The premise may seem simple, but the way it is communicated is with sublime craft and impeccable detail.

     

    This impeccable craftsmanship begins with the infamous words of Bruce Robinson. With every line, the script defines him as one of the greatest writers of a generation – a genius with words. Through characters like Danny (played by the sensational Ralph Brown) the words seem to act as a voice of the people, commenting on the social landscape around us. From the poetic downpour of Uncle Monty to the staccato brashness of Withnail, the cast compliments Robinson’s script in glorious abundance. Richard E. Grant is flawless in his portrayal of Withnail. Exuberant and feisty, his energy is unstoppable throughout, while the rendition of Hamlet is completely captivating. Joining him are Richard Griffith’s brilliantly eccentric Uncle Monty and Brown’s curious and honest Danny. Brown’s slow vocal drawl adds humanity to Robinson's words, almost as if you were talking to a friend about society over a few drinks. Then there is Paul McGann’s ‘I’, the sweet yet truthful Marwood. McGann is an exemplary actor. From the wide eyed expressions of fear in the pub, to the sincere goodbye at the final scene, he doesn’t just play Marwood – he becomes him. One of the most gifted actors to grace a screen, his performance sets the bar and continues to raise it as the film goes on – magnificent.

     


    The soundtrack is yet another of its fine aspects. Songs such as ‘All along the watchtower' contextualise the sixties backdrop, but underlying there is a cleverness to this audio-visual marvel. The songs seems to have a sense of premonition; a sign of things to come. When Withnail reads the telegram about Marwood’s audition, he remains calm but there is sadness in his eyes. ‘While my guitar gently weeps’ accompanies their return the London flat, where the news of Marwood’s leading actor role awaits. Withnail is the guitar, gently weeping underneath that their time together will soon be over. It is a beautifully haunting and enduringly exquisite dimension to the film.

     

    As the credits rolled and the lights flooded the room once more, Paul McGann walked down the stairs to rapturous applause. Friendly, open and charismatic, he was as witty as Marwood - if not wittier. His pleasant and inviting rapport with the audience led to a series of brilliant questions that were answered with honesty and adoration for the film. Joined by the brilliant Ralph Brown, whose guest appearance made the night even more memorable, the Q&A was filled with laughter and surprise. From memories of parties with George Harrison to the rather humourous question about suspicious looks in tea rooms, this mind-blowing experience was truly unique. Taking time to pose for photos and talk to fans, including me, both Ralph and Paul were truly as lovely as they are gifted actors. It was a night that will stay with us forever.

     

    As the curtains closed on the night, fans were left with the memories of an evening that will forever endure – much like Withnail and I. Whether it is the infamous quotes or the ability to see yourself in the characters, there is no other film quite like it. Here ends this telegram of love to Withnail and I – a timeless beauty.

     

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      Sarah's posts By Sarah O' Hara
      @TheLowdownMag


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