Brian, as played by David Earl is a loner. Adrift in a world of his own, or to put it more accurately -Wales, Brian’s life is building useless inventions. That is until one day, he finds a discarded washing machine. Whilst it’s junk to anybody else, Brian sees a potential for companionship. Three days later shut away in his shed, Brian has built a robot. Except like many other things in Brian’s life, it doesn’t work. However, when lightning accidentally strikes one dark and stormy night, “Charles” the robot comes to life. Cheeky and charming in equal measure, Charles quickly learns to speak and fast develops a naughty taste for adventure. Yet, how long can Brian keep Charles’s spin cycle in check from the dangerous world that lies beyond?
... a delightfully tenuous grasp on reality as summed up by Charles's inexplicable thirst for cabbages.
Fresh from FilmFour’s inventions pantry, Brian and Charles is a sweet, homemade confection that will take over your heart with its mixture of naïveté and social anxiety. Located in a sparse, rural backwater, director Jim Archer‘s short-film-now-turned-into-a-feature is the beautiful shot in the arm you’ve been looking for.
With its focus on small lives lived quietly on the wet, pastoral fringes of modern life, there are traces of Taikia Waititi’s The Hunt of The Wilder People and others here Taking its Frankensteinian starting point and stretching as much comedic absurdity from it as possible, Charles the robot is a childlike, young puppy who having become self-aware is growing up fast – possibly too fast for David Earl’s withdrawn Brian.
For fans of Ricky Gervais’s sitcoms After Life and Derek, audiences will quickly warm to Earl’s benign awkwardness. Whereas in Derek, he played a lecherous layabout in a care home, Brian is a far more vulnerable and febrile soul in David Earl’s care this time. Sparking gently in the romantic presence of Louise Brealey‘s Hazel, Brian comes to life much like his nascent creation. All of which is a good thing because lurking at the end of the drive is a fearsomely feral family that will destroy Charles given half a chance.
That said, Brian and Charles‘s real charm is the interplay between Chris Hayward’s Charles and David Earl’s fidgety Brian. As a teenager who quickly starts to pull on Brian’s new-found sense of parental responsibilities, the film really hits its comedic gold streak the more Charles tries to break free from Brian’s hastily-assembled rules.
Much like 2016’s Swiss Army Man, Brian and Charles is a film you deserve to relax into. A comedic parable with a delightfully tenuous grasp on reality, it is beautifully summed up by Charles’s inexplicable thirst for cabbages – and suffice to say, this one’s the pick of the crop.2