REVIEW: ‘Brian And Charles’ Shows That You Can Make Friends In More Ways Than One

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Brian and Charles - But Why Tho

Brian and Charles is a Focus Features film directed by Jim Archer and written by David Earl and Chris Hayward, based on their short film of the same name. Brian (Earl) is a brilliant yet lonely man who spends his days cooking up all manner of odd inventions, including a bag studded with pinecones and a flying cuckoo clock. One day, he decides to build his very own robot out of spare parts he finds on the road. The robot, which dubs itself Charles Petrescu (Hayward), comes to life during a thunderstorm. Brian and Charles form a friendship, and in the process, man and machine learn more than a few lessons from each other.

Artificial intelligence usually takes one of two paths in the film world. The most well-worn path is usually a creation that’s hellbent on the destruction of mankind (see the Terminator franchise). The second path concerns a machine that grows to learn more about the world, with Finch and Robot & Frank serving as key examples. This film falls into the latter camp, especially as Charles’ robot body consists of a washing machine and a mannequin’s head that bears a striking resemblance to Robin Williams. Charles also speaks in a halting, mechanical tone, with Hayward making him sound like Stephen Hawking at times; this only serves to endear him to viewers, as he moves with a lumbering gait that feels less like a machine and more like a child taking its first step. Charles also has a childlike curiosity about the world. While watching TV with Brian, he sees a travel program and is stricken with the desire to go to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Brian also grows throughout the film. When viewers are first introduced to Brian, he’s a rather reclusive man with a big heart and an underlying desire to connect to the other people in his village – with no idea how to reach out to others. Nowhere is this made more clear than in his interactions with Hazel (Louise Brealey), a girl who lives fairly close to him. Brian has feelings for Hazel but doesn’t quite know how to spit them out. Throughout the film, he starts to come out of his shell and even gains more confidence thanks to Charles’ inquisitive nature. Given Brian’s tendency to invent things and stumble while holding a conversation, it feels like he was either written or conceived to be an autistic character. And as an autistic man, I feel like Earl’s portrayal is spot on without being condescending or cruel.

Archer chooses to shoot most of the film in a mockumentary style similar to The Office, which serves to ground the more fantastic elements of the premise and helps endear the audience to Brian and Charles. However, this approach is abandoned about halfway through the film. While this leads to some great shots of the English countryside, courtesy of cinematographer Murren Tullett, the more easygoing nature of the film is lost. The film also struggles to fit its 90-minute runtime; a conflict with local blowhard Eddie (Jaimie Michie) lacks the urgency or the bite needed for a satisfying conflict. It’s a tricky endeavor to expand a short film into a full feature, as sometimes filmmakers succeed—particularly Carey Williams with Emergency—and sometimes they fall flat.

Brian and Charles is at its best when it puts the focus on the bond between a man and his machine, relating in one of the most charming and relatable films of the year. If you’re a fan of British comedy or are looking for a new film to watch this weekend, I highly suggest giving this one a go. And it’ll be even better if you take your friend with you.

Brian and Charles will play in select theaters nationwide in theaters on June 17, 2022.


Brian and Charles
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Brian and Charles is at its best when it puts the focus on the bond between a man and his machine, relating in one of the most charming and relatable films of the year. If you’re a fan of British comedy or are looking for a new film to watch this weekend, I highly suggest giving this one a go. And it’ll be even better if you take your friend with you.