Brian and Charles (2022)

Genres - Comedy, Culture & Society, Family & Personal Relationships, Science & Technology  |   Release Date - Jun 17, 2022 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by David Carlson

Directed by Jim Archer, the pseudo-documentary/dramatic comedy, Brian and Charles, is full of quirkiness and oddball moments that engage the audience despite its slow start. Though there are some far-fetched plot points, there are enough realistic moments to go along with a solid script and two strong acting performances to create an interesting film for someone in the mood for a unique, homemade robot movie.

Brian (David Earl) is a peculiar character and gifted inventor who lives on his own in the remote countryside of Wales. He spends his days tinkering around his homestead, presenting viewers with a number of items that he has invented. Sometimes, he heads into the nearby village to run errands and usually does not bring too much attention to himself, other than the occasional awkward conversations he has with merchants and townspeople. One day, while rummaging around the property, he comes across a human-sized, doll-like head and his new idea is born. His profile changes once it is discovered that he has successfully created an Artificial Intelligence robot whom he names Charles (Chris Hayward). Although Brian tried to keep it a secret, his ill-fated decision to bring Charles into town, introduces Hazel (Louise Brealey) to the scenario. Sworn to secrecy, she does her part helping to keep Charles hidden. But once the neighborhood brute Eddie (Jamie Michie) learns of Brian's ingenuity, he bullies his way on the Brian's property, intent on taking Charles away and jeopardizing his survival.

On the plus side, Earl and Brealey give very good performances that help give credence, balancing out some of the more unrealistic ideas, such as Charles's lone travel plans. Earl and Hayward also deserve credit for delivering a reasonable script. The writing and scenarios involving the townspeople are especially genuine. Michie's portrayal of a character audiences will love to hate is on point, and Eddie's family is also cruel, almost to the extreme. This backdrop provides the necessary conflict that is needed for spectators to root hard for a hero that is lacking in brawn, if not brains. Cinematic photography over the Welsh countryside is also a strong point, as well as well-timed close-ups that help convey some of the more tense moments.

The film isn't very clear on what it is, however. The audience feels like it is watching a documentary at first, and although branded as a comedy, it fails to deliver many comedic moments. There is some drama, which is done well enough, but it comes too late in the movie to garner adequate interest, except for the most patient of moviegoers. Brian and Charles also fails to deliver enough punch at its climax. For those who do not enjoy the buildup in this story, they are sure to be disappointed at its apex. The filmmakers clearly want viewers to care about Charles, as affection for Brian is a given. However, it mostly comes across as contrived and impractical. After all, it is learned early on that his tummy is a washing machine. Attempts to humanize this are fanciful.

A recommendation of this film hinges on the individual viewer. For those who like off-the-wall, unconventional movies, this very may well deliver, especially for people interested in both rural life and technology, two things that do not always go together. Others less interested in this genre might find a better cinematic choice. But for whatever shortcomings it has, Brian and Charles is at the very least a respectable watch, curiously blending charm and eccentricity.