Surreal and tender comedy-drama – Film Stories
David Earl and Chris Hayward star in Brian And Charles, a charmingly weird comedy about a man and his robot – here’s our review.
His name is Charles Petrescu and he is delighted to meet you. You’ve never met someone like him – and you probably never will. It’s a robot, the creation of lone inventor Brian (David Earl) in Brian and Charles, a mockumentary in the great tradition of quirky British comedy duos. However, you should put aside all thoughts of a nifty artificial intelligence here, because Charles (Chris Hayward buried under a costume of The Masked Singer level of ingenuity) is made with a mannequin head and an old washing machine.
He’s just one of Brian’s many creations, most of which don’t work, but Charles is different. He was welded together for a practical reason, but his presence and his interactions dramatically change the lives of those around him.
Socially awkward Brian lives in his ramshackle cottage on the edge of a gray village in North Wales. His inventions occupy him, but the moments when he looks at the camera reveal their transparency as a disguise of painful loneliness. The arrival of Charles changes all that in an instant. Having the robot in your life is like raising an oversized child. Brian is his guide, mentor, and controller, teaching him to walk and talk—Charles’ tendency to scramble words provides him with endless sweet humor—and instilling in him an inexplicable love for cabbages. But he has his hands full when, like all children, his companion becomes a teenager, with the inevitable rebellion, defiance and loud music.
Surreal humor and tenderness are served in equal measure in a story about loneliness, the desire to belong and the search for companionship in the most unlikely of circumstances. There’s even a touch of hesitant romance between Brian and the equally painfully shy Hazel (Louise Brealey), who lives with an overbearing mother and a parrot. And, eventually, they all have to learn to let go: Charles, having grown up, has to live his life in his own way and it’s impossible not to hope that the outside world he craves will give him the warm welcome he deserves. .
Earl and Hayward wrote the script, an expanded version of their 2017 short film of the same name. If Earl’s name isn’t familiar, you’ll recognize him
like a regular at Ricky Gervais, especially in after life where his view of Brian is perhaps less sympathetic. He and Hayward are a joy to watch in this weird comedy. It’s impossible not to smile as you watch – and to feel a certain tingle in your eyes.
Brian and Charles is in UK cinemas from July 8.
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