The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - BRIAN AND CHARLES | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - BRIAN AND CHARLES

brian and charles review
A lonely inventor creates an intelligent robot.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jim Archer

Starring: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, James Michie, Nina Sosanya

brian and charles poster

British comedian David Earl is best known for his appearances in various Ricky Gervais projects, most recently the Netflix series After Life. The influence of Gervais can be found in Brian and Charles, Earl's first foray into the world of feature filmmaking, co-written with fellow comic Chris Hayward and directed by Jim Archer. Like The Office, it adopts a Spinal Tap-esque mockumentary approach, its protagonist seemingly followed everywhere by an unseen camera crew.

brian and charles review

The technique is employed here in a manner that doesn't seem to have been very well thought out. If you've ever watched a found footage horror movie and found yourself asking why anyone would still be filming under such circumstances, you'll likely ask similar questions at various points in Brian and Charles. When we meet Brian (Earl), a lonely, socially awkward eccentric inventor who lives in rural Wales, we wonder if there really is a camera crew or if he's simply speaking to himself. But early on an unseen director has a verbal interaction with Brian, which cements the film's mockumentary approach. It's largely forgotten about from that point, with sequences that feature so many camera angles the documentary crew would need to be larger than that of a Michael Bay movie to capture the footage. Also, nobody but Brian ever acknowledges the presence of the cameras. The approach comes off as little more than a crude way to establish the character of Brian by having him give us a guided tour of his lonely world in the film's opening scenes. From then it becomes something of an inconvenience that the movie hopes we forget about.

If you can forget about it, Brian and Charles is a minor delight. Earl and Hayward have crafted a Frankenstein tale by way of '80s movies like Short Circuit, one with bags of charm. Stumbling across a mannequin head while combing a trash heap for inspiration, Brian decides he's going to build himself a robot. The result is Charles, a hulking android with a washing machine for a chest and a glowing blue eye. If you grew up watching British kids' TV in the '80s, you'll note the resemblance to the popular ventriloquist's dummy Lord Charles, no doubt an inspiration for Earl and Hayward (the latter performs inside the bulky robot suit).

brian and charles review

Despite spending "72 hours" working on his creation, Charles refuses to come to life for Brian. That is until there's a lightning storm, and Brian finds himself suddenly sharing his home with a seven foot tall companion. Much of the comedy comes from the developing relationship between the titular duo. It all starts off well with the two becoming fast friends, but Charles' mental evolution means he reaches the android equivalent of his teen years after a few days. This of course means he starts to rebel against his creator, spending time in his room blasting music in a huff over Brian's refusal to allow him to travel to Honolulu, a destination he becomes obsessed with after watching a TV travel show.

A subplot about a family of local wrong 'uns getting their hands on Charles is brought to the forefront for some final act drama, as is a narrative concerning Brian's relationship with an equally shy woman (Louise Brealey). But the movie is most successful in its middle section when we just get to hang out with Brian and Charles as human and robot develop a bond. Despite being confined to a suit that doesn't allow for much expression, Hayward displays an understanding of how to mine laughs from a character that can't emote. The way he moves his head and leans in awkwardly during conversations provokes laughs for a reason I can't quite get to the heart of – some things are just funny.

brian and charles review

Brian describes his creation as ending up with a blancmange when he was aiming for a sponge cake, but he claims to also enjoy blancmange. That's a fitting allegory for Brian and Charles. With a bit more polish it may have been a more satisfying sponge cake, but blancmange is good enough in this case.

Brian and Charles
 is in UK/ROI cinemas from July 8th.

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