Synopsis: After a particularly harsh winter, Brian goes into a deep depression; wholly isolated and with no one to talk to, Brian does what any sane person would do when faced with such a melancholic situation. He builds a robot.
Stars: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, James Michie, Nina Sosanya
Director: Jim Archer
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: Watching a film like Brian and Charles gave me a serious nostalgia trip back to the days in the early 2000’s when I frequented our local art-house cinema. It didn’t matter what was playing (or what you wanted to see); you just showed up and hoped your movie hadn’t sold out. If it did, something often played around at the same time, and you could shift gears and see that instead. I’m not sure Brian and Charles is the movie I would have come to see at the Lagoon Theater in Uptown, MN, but it wouldn’t have been a title I would have been disappointed with being my second choice either.
Expanded from a 2019 short film, also directed and co-written by Jim Archer and the film’s stars David Earl (Brian) and Chris Hayward (Charles Petrescu), this is a seemingly simple story filled with apparently simple characters who gradually reveal themselves to be more than the sum of their parts. While it’s not filled with any tremendous moral you haven’t heard a million times over or ends up traveling in a direction you couldn’t have bought a ticket for 90 minutes earlier, there’s a rough-hewn grace to it all that makes the entire experience resolutely charming.
A rural inventor lives a solitary life in North Wales and spends his lonely days tinkering away at creations that seldom do what they’re intended. Framed as a documentary of sorts, Brian speaks directly to the camera. He walks the audience around his farm, proudly showing off the gadgets with no actual use that have otherwise sprung from his wild imagination. Yet Brian’s growing need for a friend is starting to nibble away at him. While a local lass (Louise Brealey, Victor Frankenstein) shows interest in the eccentric inventor, he seems oblivious to her long-held admiration. It’s from his creativity (and a number of spare parts he gathers from ditches, dumps, etc.) that Charles is born. A robot that springs to life almost by accident, Charles may be Brian’s invention but soon becomes his own person.
Watching the relationship between Brian and Charles develop provided a sweeter fulfillment than I had expected. Quickly, Brian realizes that he has to be more of a parent to Charles than a chum, which comes with a set of complications he didn’t anticipate. Charles may speak with the monotone synth voice of a robot, but his petulant attitude suggests a teen going through typical pubescent growing pains. Fixated on traveling to Hawaii and with a devoted love of cabbage (?), Charles gives Brian a run for his money. When the head of a local family of bullies sets his sights on obtaining Charles for his own, Brian will need to come out of his shell to stand up for his loved one.
There’s a quaint charm to the droll Brian and Charles that I appreciated, but I’ll admit it’s not for everyone. The humor is of a particular bent, and if you aren’t on board with it and can’t give yourself over to what it is selling, it’s best to move on. For all others willing to devote a short sit with some unfamiliar faces in a far-off side of the world, check out what this creative team has crafted. Oh, and do stay through the end credits for a closing song from Charles himself.