Making friends is hard. The older you get the smaller your social circle becomes. For tinkerer / inventor Brian (David Earl, After Life) a secluded life in rural Wales offers little human interaction at all. So what happens when he does something about that? Brian and Charles takes a look at loneliness and protecting those you bear responsibility for.
What Is Brian and Charles About?
It’s been a while since the discovery of a mannequin’s head has been the instigator of a feature-length movie’s plot (not since, well, Mannequin).
Yet when Brian takes home such a plastic noggin and puts his mind to building a robot – out of a washing machine and other odds and ends – he somehow manages to create life.
The framing device of this homemade companionship is a documentary style which, in all honesty, is the only part of the film that wrinkles as untrue.
As Brian’s character is established (warm, shy, confident in his own abilities), he does so by interview pieces to camera as some crew follow him around for…reasons undefined.
Clearly, from a technical point, this approach is designed to allow a lonely man to speak his mind to someone so we can get to know him. Yet despite a few moments of a voice behind the camera, it is quickly forgotten that Brian is apparently being filmed by someone else, or why.
Mechanics of script aside, Brian and Charles is a wonderfully constructed little story of finding connections. Once Charles (voice of Chris Hayward) gains consciousness, the dissonance between an adult baritone sing-song robot voice and child-like thirst for knowledge is endlessly charming.
The fact he is also dressed in ill-fitting beige attire (there aren’t many shirts that fit round a washing machine), and is given bushy eyebrows and little glasses just signs off on a smile-inducing character.
Brian and Charles Official Trailer
Is Brian and Charles Worth Watching?
The 90 minutes run time of Brian and Charles is an extension of a previous short film and stakes are injected thanks to local hard man Eddie (Jamie Michie) who takes an unpleasant shine to Charles.
Similarly the themes of parenthood and responsibility are played out as Charles’ initial exuberance is tempered by naive bitterness as Brian struggles to keep him safe.
Director Jim Archer keeps tight, in his feature-length debut, what could have unravelled back into a loose sketch. That Brian and Charles can move from documentary, to Frankenstein, to an Odd Couple comedy, to a closed rural mindset, and back into a gloriously daft feel-good ending without ever feeling clunky is quite the skill.
Even nicer is that Brian and Charles is a PG rated movie. How few movies are PG these days?!
The need to either infantilise or carpet bomb with ‘adult’ behaviour to commit to one or the other market has decimated those kinds of movies that aren’t for children, but can end up becoming family favourites anyway, like the classic 80s movie *batteries not included.
With a smattering of Paddington style ‘fish out of water’ charm, and a ratchet of self-discovery, Brian and Charles is a uniquely odd movie that will have you grinning from ear to ear.
As Freddie Mercury once sang: “Friends will be friends, when you are in need of love they give you care and attention.”
Words by Mike Record
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