Brian And Charles Explore A Weird (But Charming) Couple

(left to right) David Earl as Brian and Chris Hayward as Charles in director Jim Archer's Brian And Charles.

(left to right) David Earl as Brian and Chris Hayward as Charles in director Jim Archer’s Brian And Charles.
Photo: Focus characteristics

Fictional filmmaking and outlandish high concepts go hand in hand in a budget-conscious paradise, taking ideas that might be too weird or outlandish for producers to risk funding and presenting them in a consciously absurd lo-fi package. – and therefore endearing. This mentality seems to be the driving force behind director Jim Archer and co-writers/co-stars David Earl and Chris Hayward with Brian and Charles, a feature film adaptation of their 2017 short film of the same name. Fortunately, their silly odd-couple premise develops enough traction to fill a runtime of feature, but not without some difficulty crossing the finish line.

Stylistically similar to 2014 What we do in the shadows, this supposed human-interest documentary follows the exploits of Brian (David Earl), a Welsh recluse who spends his lonely days tinkering with inventions that never quite manifest into something groundbreaking. Whether he’s converting a bicycle into a flying cuckoo clock that inexplicably catches fire, or dragging trawl nets over his shoes in the local market with no discernible purpose, Brian’s uncanny inclinations make him a lovable outcast. Not to be deterred by his outsized ambitions, he strives to build a robot to help him around the house, though he struggles to even remember the term “artificial intelligence”. Inexplicably, his experiment works and Charles Petrescu (Chris Hayward), oddly nicknamed himself, is born.

Constructed from a pair of incredibly realistic robot legs, a washing machine torso draped in an oversized shirt and cardigan, and a professor’s mannequin head, Charles approaches the world with a fascination childish. Speaking with Microsoft Sam inflection and a vocabulary developed from dictionary reading, Charles quickly befriends Brian, who teaches this new companion all the important things in life, like how to cook cabbage or when dance a jig. In a nutshell, the relationship is cute, punctuated by Earl and Hayward’s deadpan delivery that makes even a scene as benign as throwing darts into a charming character work exercise.

If the writers had been content to let their characters exist in a series of slice-of-life sketches in the vein of an extended television pilot, Earl and Hayward could have easily got away with it, but their desire to be a bit more ambitious ends up being something of a mixed bag. Most intriguing is the film’s notion that Charles isn’t just Brian’s quirky pal, but is actually the most child-like, with independent wants and needs that Brian won’t always be able to satisfy. within the confines of his remote farm. When he begins to act against his maker, picking fights and isolating himself with angsty metal music in the teenage rebellion equivalent of the walking washing machine, this deliberate test of limits fights with the desire to Brian to protect and keep Charles for himself.

This fuels an underlying tension in which Brian fears the outside world, personified by a sweet relationship with village bully Eddie (Jamie Michie) and his reluctance to flirt with the clearly interested Hazel (Louise Brealey). These competing sets of values ​​force the growth of Brian’s character, which is a not-too-subtle metaphor for the transformative effect of parenthood, where the child is no less a creature of his own making than the offspring of his creator. .

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way to the third act, Brian and Charles loses some of its charm by sacrificing sweet sentimentality. In a strangely misplaced placement of narrative priorities, the pair are estranged for much of the film’s final half-hour, which seems intended to create a sense of peril and distress that seems at odds with the deadpan absurdism previously established. . Within a limitation of the mockumentary’s framing, the focus is entirely on Brian’s arc, but without Charles’ presence, the focus is much more on his willingness to temper his reclusive nature than his ability to let go. Charles face the dangers of the world.

In fact, Charles’ agency is so entirely stolen that his arc never fully recovers, his resolution being limited to a sweet epilogue that only lip service to a desire to explore the world that previous events would. surely question. It’s tempting to view this flimsy resolution as a casualty of adapting the short’s proof-of-concept to a three-act feature film structure, where the lack of proper expansion to the initial premise run led to a narrative that concludes much weaker than its initial comic promise.

No matter the reason, Brian and Charles Still, it’s a charming film. Often hilarious and never lacking in heart, there’s a lot to love about this tale of a quirky, cabbage-loving weirdo and his ten-foot-tall mechanical son. Even if it’s a bit light thematically and doesn’t quite stick to the landing in freezing the themes it has into a cohesive whole, sometimes all it takes is a quirky sense of humor and a bit of a twist. a premise odd enough to make a lasting impression.

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