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Review: Brian and Charles

June 17, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Brian and Charles is the story of Brian (David Earl), a lonely, eccentric Welsh inventor who makes himself a sentient robot friend named Charles Petrescu (Chris Hayward), whose “tummy is a washing machine.”

Directed by Jim Archer, and co-written by Earl and Hayward, who are collectively adapting their 2017 short film of the same name to feature length, Brian and Charles is a whimsical and lighthearted film that takes its offbeat premise and crafts it into something gently funny and surprisingly sweet.

Living alone on a rural farm property in Wales, Brian is the unassuming inventor of useless but imaginative contraptions like a pinecone bag (a bag with pinecones glued on), an egg belt (a belt with cups for holding eggs), and shoe trawlers (fishing nets that drag behind your feet, purpose unknown).

When his latest project, a flying cuckoo clock, crashes and burns, he starts rummaging through a pile of rubbish and unearths an old mannequin head. This becomes the inspiration for Brian’s most ambitious invention yet; a humanoid robot companion to keep him company and help out around the farm. But it’s not long before the inquisitive, childlike Charles comes to life for real, reads through the dictionary, and starts to develop a mind of his own, along with his own wants and desires. How does this lumbering robot made of scrap come to life, you ask? At this point, we must suspend disbelief and just accept it to give ourselves over to the low-key charms of the film.

And the charms of Brian and Charles are aplenty. Presented in a mockumentary style, purported to be filmed by an unseen and unnamed cameraman who is documenting Brian’s life for some reason, the film has a quirky yet grounded feel to it that is enjoyable to watch. It’s carried by amusing performances from Earl and Hayward, who brings Charles to life through a mix of deadpan vocal work, puppeteering, and practical effects, with human legs coming out the bottom of his robot chest and head.

No, there isn’t a ton in terms of plot. There’s a quiet woman in town named Hazel (Louise Brealey) who presents a possible love interest for Brian, and a mean farmer named Eddie (Jamie Michie) who lives across the way, causing some tension and conflict. But Brian and Charles simply works as a slightly scrappy and often endearing little buddy comedy about the bond that forms between a man and his homemade robot.

Brian and Charles opens today in limited release at Cineplex Cinemas Varsity in Toronto.

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