DIRECTOR: Jim Archer

CAST: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, Jamie Michie, Nina Sosanya, Lynn Hunter, Lowri Izzard, Mari Izzard, Cara Chase, Sunil Patel, Rishi Nair, Colin Bennett

RUNNING TIME: 90 mins

CERTIFICATE: PG

BASICALLY…: A lonely inventor (Earl) invents a robotic companion (Hayward) who helps him overcome social anxieties…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

There’s no doubt that we’ve all had periods of loneliness in our lives, but enough to construct artificial intelligence out of mere trash? That is surely a new level of loneliness, and exactly the kind of strange scenario that fuels Brian and Charles, a fiercely absurdist British comedy with a strong, beating heart at its weird centre.

In the feature adaptation of their similarly named short film, David Earl and Chris Hayward play Brian and Charles respectively; the former is a lonely inventor living in a quiet Welsh village, who spends his time coming up with useless inventions such as a pine cone bag and an egg belt, but lacks the social skills he needs to befriend others, including his shy neighbour Hazel (Louise Brealey). He then decides to build himself a robot to keep him company, using old scrap including a broken washing machine and a rubber mannequin head for body parts, and eventually Charles comes alive, but with a childlike sensibility, a monotone automated voice, and an unusual fascination with cabbages. As their bond gets stronger, Brian and Charles find themselves facing numerous complications, including some nasty locals and a growing desire to venture outside the rural village in which they reside.

Like the short it’s based on, Brian and Charles is told in a mockumentary style with characters awkwardly addressing the camera and an unseen crew like your average episode of The Office. Like some faux documentary movies, it can be a little distracting in how the film tends to pick and choose whenever it wants to stick with that format or just be a more traditional narrative, but it doesn’t take too long to accept the overall structure, especially when it does lead to some rather funny moments of naturalistic awkwardness. David Earl (who has played variations of the Brian character before in other projects, most recently in Ricky Gervais’ Netflix series After Life) has a strong sense of comedic timing, with his character’s eternal and occasionally unwarranted optimism often coming across like a frustrated parent, especially when he has to take on that role with the childlike Charles. Chris Hayward, meanwhile, delivers the more physical performance between the two, since he is confined to a hilariously ridiculous box costume for the entire movie, but he still manages to impress by getting strong mileage out of his monotonous voice and random declarations (he repeatedly says “I am dreaming” while sleeping), which are endearing even when he does amusingly begin adopting rebellious teen traits.

Both work well off of each other, and provide the movie with an unmistakably beating heart that a film like this really needs. It is an endearing film, for you really feel the warmth between these two unlikely friends, and their conflicting personalities which do seem hilariously mismatched but are still well-suited for one another in their own unique ways. You certainly get a sense for Brian’s enthusiasm for taking care of his new friend, while Charles’ expansive curiosity and desire to see more of the world outside this rural area is at once heart-warming, but also a little sad due to the limitations imposed upon him for being a shoddily put-together contraption. There are plenty of moments when you just want these two characters to succeed, from gathering the courage to ask out Hazel, to standing up to a local family of bullies.

Honestly, though, it’s the latter aspect that forms the film’s biggest flaw, in that this family – especially its gruff and nasty patriarch (Jamie Michie) – feel like unnecessary villains, who only exist to give this movie some form of conflict. They are very one-dimensional caricatures, to a point where they will just openly intimidate people and later invade people’s houses to steal property (which leads one to assume that police simply don’t exist in this universe, despite there being very clear evidence of breaking and entering, not to mention what they do is technically kidnapping), of which there are very few meaningful consequences. The movie really didn’t need a villain, and would have been just fine if it were just about these two characters going about their business, but the fact that there not only are villains in this but they’re a bunch of incredibly stock and uninteresting ones does make it a bit less naturalistic than what the movie is otherwise going for.

Overall, though, it’s a likeable film with some solid moments of absurdist comedy and a pair of heart-warming lead characters, and while it may not be the most refined piece of machinery, it’s got enough strong functions to keep itself moving for the right amount of time.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Brian and Charles is a likeable piece of absurdist British comedy, which is fuelled by a light but amusing sense of humour as well as a heart-warming dynamic between its two titular figures, although it does start to lose its way once some unnecessary villains show up just to provide conflict in an otherwise easy-going experience.

Brian and Charles will be released in cinemas nationwide on Friday 8th July 2022 – click here to find a screening near you!

Did you like this review? Want to know when the next one comes out?

Sign up to our e-mail service today, and get our latest reviews and previews sent straight to your inbox!