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Film / Withnail and I

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"We've gone on holiday by mistake!"

Withnail (after drinking an ounce of lighter fluid): Have we got any more?
(Marwood shakes his head.)
Withnail: Liar. What's in your toolbox?
Marwood: No, we have nothing. Sit down.
Withnail: Liar! You've got anti-freeze!
Marwood: Bloody fool! You should never mix your drinks!
(Withnail pauses, laughs hysterically, then falls over and vomits on Marwood's boots.)
The title characters, pretty much setting the tone for the whole movie

Made in 1987, Withnail & I is a semi-autobiographical classic black comedy set in the end weeks of 1969. It's written and directed by Bruce Robinson, who lived it. The film stars Richard E. Grant as Withnail, a messed-up, flamboyant alcoholic, and Paul McGann as Marwood (or "I", since he's never named in the actual film), his slightly more gentle and sensible friend. Both are perpetually unemployed (and in Withnail's case, almost entirely unemployable) actors living in squalor, who decide to get away from it all with a holiday in the countryside. They do so by way of borrowing a cottage belonging to Withnail's — equally flamboyant — gay Uncle Monty.

Trouble is, everything goes wrong; they're totally incapable of looking after themselves, rendering the — in itself rather cosy — cottage a cold, dark, borderline inhospitable shack. They can't find any food, they throw their money away on booze, it won't stop pouring, the locals are surly and unwelcoming, a local poacher takes exception to Withnail and promises violent retribution. And as if that wasn't enough, Uncle Monty makes a surprise appearance, with amorous intentions towards Marwood.

The film is famous for its hilarious lines, as well as for having one of the saddest endings in comedy film history. It's gained cult status (besides an evergreen popularity among university students, often people who see it will quote it whole) and is considered an important part of British film culture. Equally (in)famous are Robinson's mistreatment by HandMade Films during production, and the film's intense amounts of Ho Yay and Paul McGann Fanservice.

The script is also notable as being a work of art just as much as the film is, and Robinson's descriptions outside of the dialogue have to be seen to be believed.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Monty's amorous intentions towards Marwood are entirely unwanted on Marwood's part.
  • Actor Allusion: The photograph of Richard Griffiths in Uncle Monty's cottage is from The World Cup: A Captain's Tale (1982) in which he played a football manager and referee.
  • The Alcoholic: Both protagonists are booze-addled layabouts, although Withnail's the one who stoops so low as to drink lighter fluid.
  • The Alleged Car: The beaten-up Mark 2 Jaguar. One functioning headlight, one functioning windscreen wiper... on the passenger side. Not what you want for a drive around the Lake District.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The screenplay is as much a work of art as the movie is. From the stage directions for the opening sequence:
      Dostoyevsky described hell as perhaps nothing more than a room with a chair in it. This room has several chairs. A young man sits in one.
    • Marwood's name and age (25) are only given in the screenplay.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Withnail admits to being carried away lying that Marwood was in love with him, but then he looks he's going to cry when he says "man delights not me, no, nor woman neither" at the end. Paul McGann claims that Richard E. Grant actually did have tears in his eyes during the goodbye scene. There's also plenty of Ho Yay going on between him and Marwood, and his family apparently hate his stage career, which could have less to do with wanting him to take a more reputable career and more to do with the association between "inversion" and actors in the U.K at the time. He's also strangely chummy with Monty, who's implied to be the black sheep of the family, which would suggest something of an understanding between them.
  • Anachronism Stew: Some scenes have 1980s automobiles visible in the background. Additionally, a modern road sign can be seen while the two are driving down the M25, which itself didn't exist in 1969.
  • Artistic License – Art: After lamenting that he would never play the Dane Monty begins a monologue from Act I Scene I of Hamlet, which is actually spoken by Marcellus and not by Hamlet himself.
  • Ate His Gun: Withnail's fate in the original - unfilmed - ending.
  • Audience Surrogate: Bruce Robinson used this trope so literally that Marwood doesn't even get a name, allowing the audience to more easily identify with his misfortunes.
  • Author Avatar: Marwood is a stand-in for Bruce Robinson.
  • Badass Boast: Withnail is incredibly skilled at giving these.
    There's nothing invented I couldn't take.
  • Barefoot Loon: Danny walks around barefoot, in keeping with his general hippie vibe.
  • Bath of Poverty: The duo talk casually, while Marwood is bathing and attempting to shave in a tiny, stained and cracked bathtub in the middle of the floor.
  • Bathroom Stall Graffiti: Marwood sees some graffiti in a bathroom stall which reads, "I fuck arses", This, combined with his encounter with a man who called him a ponce, causes him to be so scared that, as his voiceover tells us, he can't even pee straight.
  • Bathtub Scene: Marwood has an extended scene where he shaves while taking a bath.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Discussed and averted when Monty is reminiscing about a dalliance he had as a young man.
    Monty: I sometimes wonder where Norman is now. Probably wintering with his mother in Guildford. A cat, rain, Vim under the sink, and both bars on. But old now, old. There can be no true beauty without decay.
  • Bilingual Bonus: While Monty, Withnail and Marwood are playing cards, Monty and Withnail have a brief conversation in Latin about Marwood "Needing a Queen to come to the rescue", which also shows off the characters' upper class education.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Well, attempted rape.
    Monty: I mean to have you, even if it must be burglary!
  • Black Sheep: Withnail curries no favours with his family, who disdain his choice of profession (and his frankly appalling lifestyle).
    Withnail: I dislike relatives in general and in particular mine.
    Marwood: Why?
    Withnail: I've told you why. We're incompatible. They don't like me being on stage.
  • Blatant Lies: "I asshure you I'm not officer. I've only had a few ales."
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Withnail announces that he needs a small child so he can tutor them into the ways of righteousness. And procure some uncontaminated urine.
  • Break the Haughty: For all Withnail's high opinion of himself and his talents, in the end he is forced to face the fact that he'll never make it big.
  • Bromantic Comedy: Roger Ebert once described the film as 'a Bromance going horribly wrong'.
  • Butt-Monkey: Marwood can't catch a break, and his instinctive response to bad luck is to grin nervously. He starts to complain after a while that he can't drink coffee because he's got a grinning cramp. Though he's the one who finally gets work at the end.
  • Byronic Hero: Withnail. Artistic, tormented, misunderstood by society.
  • Camp Gay: Uncle Monty. Withnail might also count, although his orientation is somewhat hazy.
  • Chromosome Casting: Withnail, Marwood and Monty (and, at a push, Withnail's dealer Danny) are the only characters of any significance in the film. Moreover, most of the characters of lesser significance are male too.
  • City Mouse: The duo are completely unsuited to country life, as they soon find out.
  • City Slicker: Inverted. Withnail and Marwood keep insisting "we're not from London!" to everyone they meet in the country because they're afraid of getting shafted.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Danny.
    I don't advise a hair cut, 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 often uptight.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Landers Minder: A large chunk of Marwood's life involves getting himself and Withnail out of whatever trouble the latter's landed them in.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The entire film is one, effectively, with swear words ranging from the above to Country Matters to right around again.
  • Contemplating Your Hands: Marwood: "My thumbs have gone weird! I'm in the middle of a fucking overdose!"
  • Cool Car: Monty's custom 1953 Rolls Royce, in sharp contrast to Marwood's Jaguar.
  • Country Matters: One of Withnail's most famous lines.
  • Creator Cameo: Bruce Robinson appears as the barman in the London pub. Also, he is the postman who brings the telegram to Crow Crag, and possibly the poacher the boys see in the distance.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marwood has his moments:
    Marwood: You never discuss your family, do you?
    Withnail: I told you, we're incompatible. They don't like me being on stage.
    Marwood: Then they must be delighted with your career.
    Withnail: What do you mean?
    Marwood: You so rarely are.
  • Death Glare: Marwood's preferred method of dealing with Withnail's bouts of pigheadedness; one can assume he's had a lot of time to practice.
  • Deer in the Headlights: Marwood is unable to move for a few very long seconds when he realizes that Monty has come to his room.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: A man drives up to the cottage in a tractor with the logs Marwood asked for for firewood. Withnail asks him if he's the farmer... twice.
    Marwood: Stop saying that, Withnail! Of course he's the fucking farmer!
  • Despair Speech: Withnail mournfully recites a passage from Hamlet at the end of the film upon parting ways with his only friend and realizing his ambitions will never come to fruition.
  • Dirty Coward: Withnail much more than Marwood.
    • When he sees the size of the drunken Irishman who called Marwood "perfumed ponce", Withnail backpedals so furiously he almost falls over the bar:
      Withnail: I don't know what my fr—acquaintance did to upset you, but I can assure you it's nothing to do with me. I suggest you both go outside and discuss it sensibly in the street...
    • Withnail causes Marwood's encounter with a randy bull by forgetting to shut the gate to its field, then he jumps over the wall to let him deal with it.
  • Dirty Old Man: Monty makes many unwanted sexual advances towards Marwood. He eventually corners him in his room and attempts to rape him, but is luckily talked down.
  • Doomed Protagonist: The movie ends with Withnail alone, in complete and utter despair, still unemployed, and on the brink of getting evicted. It's not a question of whether his self-destructive lifestyle will kill him, but a question of when. (Withnail's real-life counterpart, the little-known actor Vivian MacKerrell, never found success in life and died fairly young of throat cancer.)
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: Played for laughs, though for very Squicky ones. It's certainly supposed to be hilarious when Marwood gets out of the situation by telling Monty that Withnail is his lover, and that he couldn't stand the thought of being made to be unfaithful to him. Also, his reaction to the "I fuck arses" graffiti plays with this trope.
    Uncle Monty: I mean to have you even if it must be burglary!
  • Downer Ending: Only the wolves know what a good actor Withnail can really be. At our last look of him, he seems in complete and utter despair. The original intended ending had Withnail committing suicide by drinking wine from a gun barrel, then pulling the trigger.
  • Drama Queen: Both Withnail and Uncle Monty.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Right before the telegram comes, signifying that their friendship is coming to an end.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Withnail, which isn't surprising since he doesn't have a driving licence. When a groggy Marwood wakes up in the back seat of the Jaguar to find a drunk Withnail at the wheel flying round the M25note  and chaotically weaving in and out of early morning traffic, Withnail simply explains, "I'm making time."
  • Dumbass Has a Point: When Withnail observes that he and Marwood are on a downward spiral, Marwood even says (in voiceover), "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."
  • End of an Age:
    • In rare moment of lucidity by Danny. He states all the thoughts and ideas of The '60s have become little more than commercialised junk for the grim Seventies.
    • Also Marwood and Withnail's friendship is coming to end with Marwood pursuing an acting job.
  • Erudite Stoner: Danny the drug dealer. Although his "wisdom" is actually pretty vapid compared to the main characters' much more down-to-earth problems.
    Danny: Politics, man. If you're hanging onto a rising balloon, you're presented with a difficult decision — let go before it's too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope?
  • Everybody Smokes
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: At the end of the film, Marwood gets rid of his wild curls and becomes noticeably more clean-cut and less bohemian in appearance, to signify his improved circumstances and the severing of ties with Withnail. On a more mundane level, it's because he's been cast as the lead in the play Journey's End, which is set in the World War I trenches, and all of the leading characters of which are British Army officers, so he has to look the part.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Word of God from Bruce Robinson says the film takes place over two or three weeks, with the bulk of the action happening during a single weekend.
  • Eye Take: "Congratulations..." We see the precise moment when Withnail and Marwood's friendship ends for good.
  • Fan Disservice: Kind of hard to enjoy the all-but-naked hot twentysomething when he's trying to avoid being taken advantage of by a man approximately twice his size.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: Marwood's writings frequently take on a philosophical bent.
    Marwood: (voiceover) Even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day. And for once I'm inclined to believe that Withnail is right. We are indeed drifting into the arena of the unwell.
  • Fish out of Water: Both of them are totally at sea in the countryside.
  • Foil: Withnail and Marwood, to each other. Marwood seems reasonable mostly in comparison to how reasonable Withnail isn't. And Withnail's strangeness and fecklessness is more apparent with Marwood to react to him and compare him with.
  • Foreshadowing: When they first meet with Monty, he remarks that he gave up his acting career when he came to the same conclusion many ultimately unsuccessful aspiring actors reach: "I will never play the Dane," referring to the title character in Hamlet. Withnail says he intends to play "The Dane" one day. At the end of the film, he mournfully recites a passage from the play, having apparently also come to the sad conclusion that he will never play the role on stage.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Sanguine: Uncle Monty
    • Choleric: Withnail
    • Melancholic: Marwood
    • Phlegmatic: Danny
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: "& I's" name is confirmed as Marwood when he recieves his telegram in the final act. It's hand-written, in cursive, on the envelope. It's only on screen for less than a second and it's upside-down... for such things was home-viewing invented.
  • Friendship Moment: Doubly subverted when they're going back home. Marwood is panicking and sleep-deprived while driving and Withnail just cackles. But then he wakes up in the backseat disorientated to find Withnail has taken over and is "making time".
  • Funny Background Event: Marwood's expression whenever Withnail is making grandiose claims about his success as a film and theatre star.
  • Giftedly Bad:
    • Withnail believes he's a great actor note  and genuinely has no idea why he has been out of work for so long:
      Withnail: Bastards! You'll all suffer! I'll show the lot of you! I'm gonna be a STAAAAAAAAAAARRRRR!
    • By contrast Marwood has a much higher talent-to-ego ratio. While Withnail indulges in melodramatic bragging, Marwood quietly auditions for a small part in a play... and gets offered the lead.
  • Gratuitous French: Monty peppers his speech with French words and quotes.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: The bleak final scene is made even bleaker by the cold, heavy rain.
  • Greasy Spoon: Marwood finds himself in a particularly gritty and British one near the start of the film. In the script it is referred to as "Wanker's Cafe."
  • Guttural Growler: Presuming Ed
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: "GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN!"
  • The Hedonist: One of the qualities at the core of Withnail's personality.
    Monty: You're incapable of indulging in anything but pleasure, am I not right?
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: As Paul McGann said, it's like a "marriage going wrong". But as he's also noted, the "heterosexual" part definitely doesn't apply to Withnail, and maybe not to Marwood either.
  • Horrible Housing: The duo live in a messy flat in Camden Town. They're so bad at housekeeping that their kitchen sink has become a bio-hazard.
  • I Have a Family: In a last, desperate attempt by Withnail to avoid a beating after he had run afoul of an Irishman, he says, "My wife's having a baby".
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Withnail's response to virtually any situation is to get absolutely sloshed.
  • Idyllic English Village: While Monty's cottage seems to be located within or near a hamlet with a pub and not much else, the village where Monty takes the boys to so they can buy some wellies is much more in line with this trope, particularly with its tea room full of easily-scandalised elderly patrons.
  • Important Haircut: Marwood, in the final scene.
  • Immune to Drugs: According to the Other Wiki, Withnail is shown drinking roughly nine and a half glasses of red wine, half a pint of cider, one shot of lighter fluid [emphasis added]..., two and a half shots of gin, six glasses of sherry, thirteen glasses of whisky and half a pint of ale" throughout the movie. And he also does pot. There's a supposed Drinking Game where the player drinks everything Withnail drinks when he drinks it, with something else substituted for the lighter fluid. It's unlikely that anyone who has even attempted the game has actually completed it. In an earlier scene, he is offered a drug whose street name is "The Embalmer." His response? "Balls. I'll swallow it and run a mile."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • For most of the movie, Withnail's all too willing to throw Marwood to the wolves for personal gain, but his attempt to "make time" when driving to London is a genuine show of friendship on his part. And when Marwood gets a big role, he manages to muster up a teary-smiled "congratulations", although he's almost certainly very displeased about it. He does show some concern for Marwood after basically betraying him to his uncle, and tries to get him to stay.
    • Jake the poacher probably counts as this, since after his argument with Withnail he does end up bringing them a hare to eat.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Inverted with Monty: he's clearly not to be trusted, since he despises his own pet cat.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All:
    • "A coward you are, Withnail. An expert on bulls you are not."
    • Withnail's general approach to any situation is to try and bluff his way out of it, which backfires on him spectacularly a few times throughout the film, most memorably in the scene with the police:
      Withnail: Look here, my cousin's a Q.C—
  • Large Ham:
    • Richard E. Grant isn't one but his character, Withnail, certainly is. All the world is a stage for him, and while we never see him on an actual stage we get to see him overact in his everyday life:
      Withnail: I'm a trained actor REDUCED to the status of a bum!
    • Uncle Monty is quite hammy as well. Presumably it's a family trait.
  • Last-Name Basis: Everyone calls Withnail by his last name.
  • Last Note Nightmare: Withnail's Theme is bouncy and dramatic in a very sad way, but it ends on a thumping flat note. Considering who it's for, it's very fitting, and, considering the original ending, in which he takes a final drink before blowing his brains out, Fridge Horror.
  • Laughing Mad: A very high Withnail can't stop cackling when Danny screws him over and nicks all his post (which means he'll be getting evicted) and arrogantly says that law rather appeals to him. Marwood ends up laughing along, probably due to the drugs.
  • Luvvies: Withnail. Posh, pompous, boastful and eccentric - basically every stereotype associated with British theatre actors rolled into one person.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Their London flat is squalid, and the kitchen is almost a biological hazard. They're scared to clean out the sink because they're pretty sure something is alive in there, and when they do brave it, they find some sort of grey, mushy matter.
  • Messy Hair: Withnail sports a mane of uncombed, uncut and oftentimes unwashed hair.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Happens to Marwood constantly: "Perfumed ponce!", "So you're a thesbian too?", "You want workin' on, boy..."
  • Mock Millionaire: "We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here and we want them now!" "We are not drunks, we're multi-millionaires". One of the least convincing examples of this trope.
  • Mood Whiplash: A film that's almost unrelentingly hilarious detailing two self-destructive people in the death spiral of their friendship is bound to be full of moments like this.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Marwood keeps a journal filled with various thoughts on his and Withnail's situation in life, which provides the narration.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • If you're not a hard-drinking British university student, it's quite likely you watched it primarily for Marwood's shirtless scenes, even when he's nearly getting raped. Paul McGann spends a good third of his scenes in only his underwear.
    • This was the film that turned Richard E. Grant into a sex symbol.
  • Name and Name
  • Near-Rape Experience: Uncle Monty is about to force himself on Marwood, before he lies and claims to be in a secret relationship with Withnail, which causes Monty to have a sudden attack of conscience.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Monty is a thinly-veiled Franco Zeffirelli, albeit fat and not Italian. According to some people involved with the film, some of his dialogue in the bedroom scene is taken word-for-word from some of Zeffirelli's chat-up lines, which the director had to endure while playing Benvolio in his film version of Romeo and Juliet.
  • No Name Given: Credited as "...& I", Marwood is named only in the screenplay, and only visible in the one hell of a Freeze-Frame Bonus listed above. We shall never know Withnail's first name, on the other hand, leaving one to think it's something poncey like 'Sheridan'. However, this tweet from Richard E Grant would suggest it is 'Vyvian', which would make sense considering the person on whom the character is based, and the ponce-level of the name. There's a belief among fans that Marwood's first name is "Peter", thanks to a misheard line of dialogue in the movie that is not supported by the script. Although, during this interview Paul McGann does more or less confirm this.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Even when he's annoyed at Withnail, Marwood is supremely touchy-feely with him.
  • Oireland: The Irishman (who's given no other name) is a thoroughly unpleasant man who tries to start a fight with our protagonists because he's offended that Marwood put perfume on his shoes (to keep them from stinking from Withnail's vomit).
  • Only One Name: Withnail.
  • Only Sane Man: Marwood, certainly when compared to Withnail, Monty and Danny. He's not immune to indulging his vices and isn't exactly much better equipped to survive in the country than Withnail is, but overall he's far more reasonable, calm and blessed with more common sense.
  • Oop North: Much of the film takes place in the Lake District, a mountainous region near the Scottish border on the west cost of Britain. The locals appear to be slightly dismissive of "London types" from down south.
    Withnail: Listen, we're bona fide! We're not from London.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Marwood's very skilled at the art of diplomatic putdowns.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Marwood is racist ("Who's the huge spade in the bath?") and homophobic - a real product of the 1960's.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Withnail is even worse-off than Marwood, who at least has enough money on him to loan it to Withnail when needed. This is despite his very posh background, which gives a suggestion of him having been disowned due to his attempt at an acting career.
  • The Pig-Pen: The Camden flat is dingy and squalid - the kitchen area, in particular, is an absolute atrocity.
  • Pretty Boy: The two leads look like they've have been battered and malnourished for far too long, but still… Marwood has the same looks he later had for the Eighth Doctor and Withnail is pouty-mouthed, has big blue eyes and his hair goes fluffy when they hit the countryside. The battered factor even adds to the appeal.
  • Psychological Projection: Someone is projecting, whether it's Marwood lying to himself that he's not gay, Withnail shoving his experiences onto Marwood or an unrequited love situation is up for debate.
  • Random Events Plot: The plot of the film is effectively that two out-of-work actors go on holiday and things happen to them, eventually resulting in their parting
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Withnail is the energetic, impulsive red to Marwood's cool and reflective blue.
  • Retraux: The film's low-key style makes it look much more like something made in 1969 than 1987, to the extent that some viewers think it really is a film from The '60s.
  • Revised Ending: The ending would originally have had Withnail putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. It was changed to be not so completely depressing.
  • Serious Business: The dishes. As any Troper who has flatted can attest, this is very much Truth in Television.
  • Shirtless Scene: The movie is extremely dedicated to showing Paul McGann in various states of undress every few minutes.
  • Shown Their Work: The headline "NUDE AU PAIR'S SECRET LIFE" was an actual headline from News of the World on November 16th 1969.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Withnail believes himself to be a great actor despite having done virtually no work in the field. His final scene, however, in which he delivers a word-perfect Hamlet soliloquy with spot-on characterisation and emotion, may prove him right.
  • Smart People Know Latin: Withnail and Monty engage in some prep-school Latin badinage at the less highly educated Marwood's expense.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Poor Marwood garners unwanted attentions from Uncle Monty thanks to his extraordinary good looks..
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Withnail constantly evokes both Upper-Class Twit and Sir Swearsalot in the same breath.
  • Sorry Ociffer: The "GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN!" scene: Withnail is sloshed throughout and trying to maintain his very much imperilled dignity.
  • Speech Impediment: In common with a good many Londoners, Danny has rhotacism, an inability to pronounce the letter 'r'. In his case it's extreme and sometimes extends to the letter 'l'.
    Danny: The joint I am about to woll wequires a cwaftsman, and can utilise up to twewve skins. It is cawwed a Camberweww Cawwot.
    Marwood: It's impossible to use twelve papers on one joint.
    Danny: It's impossibwe to make a Camberweww Cawwot with anything less.
  • Starving Artist: The protagonists are out-of-work actors with barely a penny to their name.
  • Stoner Flick: More of a drinker flick than anything. As noted elsewhere, the only thing more notorious than the rules of the popular drinking game (match Withnail and Marwood drink for drink over the course of the film) is the fact that attempting to play the drinking game will land you in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. However, due to the film's popularity with students, many people try: generally, they fall asleep at the glass of whiskey around the half-way mark.
  • Straight Man: Marwood plays a pitch-perfect straight man to Withnail, grounding his manic performance in a solid emotional reality; the film wouldn't work nearly as well as it does without him.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Marwood has some typically intolerant attitudes towards homosexuality for the time and certainly is entitled to feel some grievances towards Monty having "narrowly escaped a buggering" that was decidedly unwanted. But he does feel some sympathy for Monty after reading his bittersweet farewell letter.
  • Take That!: Bruce Robinson alleges Franco Zeffirelli pursued him at one time. During an early scene in the film, Withnail reads a newspaper headline of "Boy Lands Plum Role For Top Italian Director," and goes on to suggest the reason the actor has the part is the director's amorous interest in him.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: The farmer is nearly the only person in the countryside who's nice to the protagonists, bringing them wood and food.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Withnail is hedonistic and self-destructive - and dragging Marwood along for the ride.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Marwood until the end: he's bedraggled and long-haired, but still gorgeous. Eventually She Cleans Up Nicely comes into affect when he has to look proper. Withnail is this throughout, but especially when they hit the countryside.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Withnail - hedonistic, cowardly, and somewhat lacking in both common sense and empathy departments.
  • Upper-Class Twit: It's made very clear that Withnail comes from an upper-class family (e.g. he went to Harrow), and his common sense and work ethic are both inferior to Marwood's (who was born into the working class).
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Withnail throws up on Marwood's shoes.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Marwood spends roughly half of the movie clad only in his underwear.
  • Working-Class Hero: Unlike Withnail, Marwood wasn't born into money, which may be partially responsible for his better work ethic and common sense.
  • You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses: Withnail unsuccessfully tries this approach on the Irishman who is threatening to beat him and Marwood bloody.
    Withnail: I have a heart condition. I have a h-h-heart condition. If you hit me, it's murder.
    Irishman: I'll murder the pair of yous!
    Withnail: My wife is having a baby!

I have of late - but wherefore I know not - lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilential congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither.