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Brian and Charles (A Movie Review)

Brian and Charles


Starring David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, James Michie, Nina Sosanya, Lynn Hunter, Lowri Izzard, Mari Izzard, Cara Chase, Sunil Patel, Rishi Nair, Colin Bennett, Vivienne Soan, David Edwards, Nicholas Asbury and Morgan Adler.

Screenplay by David Earl and Chris Hayward.

Directed by Jim Archer.

Distributed by Focus Features. 90 minutes. Rated PG.

British comedian and actor Stephen Fry once described the difference between American and British humor. “You know that scene in Animal House where there’s a fellow playing folk music on the guitar, and John Belushi picks up the guitar and destroys it? And the cinema loves it. Well, the British comedian would want to play the folk singer. We want to play the failure.”

It’s not the only difference, but it does make sense, particularly in the case of a film like Brian and Charles, about a shy, henpecked, but good-natured single man named Brian (David Earl) living in the boonies of England who uses his good nature as a shield against the hardships of his life. He’s also an aspiring inventor who puts together little knickknacks and devices. One day, in a fit of inspiration and loneliness, he decides to use random found items like a washing machine and a mannequin head to create a robot (played in disguise by Chris Hayward).

There is no reason for this invention to work, but that is just part of the quirky whimsy of Brian and Charles. Despite the fact that it’s odd looking and clunky, not only does the robot (which he names Charles) work, but it is quickly a smart, feeling, inquisitive and innocent soul who becomes Brian’s best friend.

The problem is that Brian feels the need to hide his creation from the sleepy hamlet where he lives, particularly the family of bullies who live not far away. And Charles wants to see the world.

It’s a bit of an oddball film. It’s very British and very understated, but it overall was a funny and sweet movie. I’m glad I saw it.

It is all filmed in a fake “documentary” style. (Catherine O’Hara once told me that Christopher Guest – the man who is probably most responsible for the film type with the likes of This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show – hates the term “mockumentary” which sprung up about his films, so I’m not going to use it here.) The style gives the movie a lovingly lived-in feel, the feel of real people and real lives with just one odd quirk to make them special.

By strange coincidence – in the 1987 film Making Mr. Right, also about a human using a robot for company, the 1960s pop hit “Happy Together” by the Turtles was used for a show the robot and creator bond, and the same song is used here for a similar sequence.

Brian and Charles is not often laugh-out-loud funny, but it is often extremely amusing, and that works, too. It’s modest and likable, much like its protagonist.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: June 17, 2022.

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