Withnail and I has to be one of my favourite films of all time. Having first seen it when it came out in 1987, like all great cult films it is one you can watch over and which over time speaks to you in different ways. Set in 1969 when the swinging 60’s was giving way to the hangover that was to be the 1970’s it tells the story of two out of work actors who take a break from their squalid lives in a Camden flat for a holiday in a cottage in Penrith owned by Withnail’s lecherous gay Uncle Monty. The holiday is an unmitigated disaster as the pair are thwarted by foul weather, hostile locals and the unwanted advances of Uncle Monty.
As a teenager the film appealed to my rebellious side even if that amounts to little more than laughing at people from ‘up north’ and upsetting old ladies in teashops. A few years on around the time I left University a new meaning emerged as it put into full focus that terrifying moment when adulthood finally catches up with you. What to do now that the gang you had assumed you would be starting the revolution with were happy to declare that a rented film from Blockbuster and a take-out curry on a Friday night was the highlight of their week. Most recently within the last 10 years or so it has revealed its most poignant and painful messages about the meaning of friendship, the passage of time and cutting loose from the past.
I often think of Withnail and I when I meet with businesses that have matured to adulthood and are experiencing growing pains. It may be simply that the founders have changed over the years the business has been growing and that their aims and ambitions have diverged. The business has been a success but it needs the person with the vision of what it could be in the future to really thrive and drive it forward. In business as in life there is often a need to re-evaluate, to change and to even cut loose in order to move on. Just like in the film I know these decisions can be difficult and even painful. I also know that these things are resolvable if owners have insight into the situation and I thank Withnail and I for being the film that showed me that there is a time to move on in order to move on up. As Uncle Monty said ‘Come on Lads, let’s get home, the sky is beginning to bruise, night must fall and we shall be forced to camp’.