BRIAN AND CHARLES
FILM REVIEW: BRIAN AND CHARLES
Release Date: 8th July 2022
Directed by: Jim Archer
Cast: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, Jamie Michie
Screenplay by: David Earl and Chris Hayward
Cinematography: Murren Tullett
“bordering on genius”
Jim Archer’s feature debut, written by David Earl and Chris Hayward, is a lo-fi delight. David Earl’s Brian is a lonely eccentric living alone on a rubbish-filled farm in rural Wales. Following a prolonged bout of depression, Brian decides to start inventing things. However, his inventions are pointless, such as an egg belt (a belt for carrying eggs) or a toilet plunger with a water bottle attached to it. Then he builds a robot from a washing machine and names it Charles Petrescu. The robot then comes to life, and so does the movie.
In all honesty, the first 15 minutes of Brian and Charles isn’t great. The handheld mockumentary format has been done to death, and there is little reason for using it here, apart from giving Earl the opportunity to wink at the camera when the jokes don’t land. But then Charles shows up and all is forgiven.
Brian and Charles is cut from the same cloth as a live action Wallace and Gromit, with a little bit of Pinocchio and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial thrown in for good measure. It’s incredibly sweet movie with a lot of heart, and sometimes quite moving. But first and foremost, it is a brilliantly funny piece of work.
Charles Petrescu is one of the most inspired comedic creations that I’ve seen in a very long time. Part curious child, part affectionate, excitable dog, he pesters Brian with questions such as “how big is outside?” Aardman’s moon-dwelling, skiing-obsessed robot cooker in A Grand Day Out is an obvious influence. After watching a holiday programme on TV, Charles becomes obsessed with the idea of visiting Hawaii (or “Hono-Loop-Loop”) and starts wearing a hula skirt. It’s this juxtaposition of the mundane and the ridiculous that makes Brian and Charles so funny. It is so ridiculous, you have to laugh.
Brian and Charles is essentially a fairy tale. Granted, a really weird fairy tale, but it is structured like a children’s movie. There’s nothing to say that a child couldn’t enjoy it. The child may end up resenting you for making them sit through it, but it’s not violent and there’s no salty language.
The story is certainly slight, and a little on the thin side. There are elements that don’t work, such as Jamie Michie’s bully. In the context of the story, this character is quite important, but his actions and motivation make little sense. However, it’s impossible to be too critical, because… well… because Charles Petrescu.
At no point is any attempt made to make Charles appear as anything other than a bloke with one arm sticking out of a cardboard box and the other arm moving a fake mannequin head. And that’s part of the movie’s charm. The slight delay caused by the text-to-speech software used to voice Charles makes things even more awkward and funny. Put all of this together and it’s bordering on genius. This is a character with legs (pun intended).