Review: Brian and Charles

Score:  B-

Director:  Jim Archer

Cast:  David Earl, Chris Hayward, Lousie Brealey

Running Time:  90 Minutes

Rated:  PG

"You don't mess with Brian and Charles."

There is no denying the implausible aspects that sit at the center of Brian and Charles, the sweet, honest, and heartwarming buddy tale from first-time feature director Jim Archer. But somehow, nestled within the ridiculousness is a warm pulse of kind innocence. Patiently waiting for the slightly uneven story to work its way through will be difficult for many. But, for those who can withstand, what's awaiting them is worth the patience.

Written by stars David Earl and Chris Hayward, Brian and Charles is an expansion on the duo's 2017 short by the same name. It centers on Brian (Earl), a depressed middle-aged inventor who has encountered a more brutal than expected winter in the slightly barren countryside of Wales. After a slew of inventions results in no real success, our undeterred and lonely protagonist decides to spend three days creating something that will be of actual use: a friend.

Shot in a documentary-style format, with the crew remaining out of frame, Brian often breaks the fourth wall, talking directly to the camera as he discusses his inventions. He is his own hype man, showing off his egg belt and pinecone bag with an odd amount of pride. In reality, his concoctions are unexciting, but Brian doesn't care.

But on a night of loud thunder and bright flashes of light, Brian gets his Frankenstein moment. Granted, it isn't as magical as one might expect, nor does it mimic anything close to Mary Shelley's vision. But with the body of a washing machine and the head of a mannequin, Charles (Hayward) raises his head from the proverbial slab.

A unique sight, to say the least, Charles' personality is slow to develop. His clothing, stitched together to resemble that of a man, marks a singular example of the oddities within the story's context and the visuals that support it. But our newly minted robot learns English from a nearby dictionary, building his vocabulary as he engages with his creator. Thankful for another voice, Brian is happy to oblige. That is until Charles begins to outgrow his infancy, adapting to that of a bratty teenager hellbent on disobeying his commander.

Brian isn't all innocent. Overprotective and unsure of how the town will react, he has only purposely introduced Charles to Hazel (Louise Brealey), the object of his childlike affection. Hazel is, like Brian, kind and soft-spoken, unsure of her every move as she navigates life with slight hesitation, constantly looking out for village thug Eddie and his two daughters.

We quickly learn that Brian's fears aren't entirely unwarranted. Though told with a childlike innocence (and carrying a relatively tame PG rating), Brian and Charles is not a full-blown kid's film. The climax is unexpectedly dark as Charles, positioned at the top of a burning bonfire, is in immediate peril. And while the events open the door for a few similarly aligned themes, the film fails to transition between segments fluidly. Even the third act confrontation bears an unusual quirkiness to it, assimilating the film's overarching tone while remaining undeniably distinct.

That doesn't make it bad, but rather a fully embodying metaphor for its leading character: an unapologetic misfit who yearns for someone to find, care, hold, and appreciate it, despite its pronounced miscues and flaws.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.