New to buy on digital in the UK is the British comedy-drama mockumentary, Brian and Charles. The movie – directed by Jim Archer – stars David Earl and Chris Hayward, and tells the story of an inventor who builds an artificially intelligent robot.
In the movie, Brian Gittins is an inventor who lives alone in a rural village in Wales. Brian is a lonely man, but an eternal optimist, who spends his days building strange (and mostly useless) inventions, from bits of scrap that he acquires.
One day, while out collecting parts, Brian stumbles across a mannequin head. This discovery inspires him to build a robot, which he believes will be useful for doing odd jobs around the house.
After constructing the robot from spare parts, including an old washing machine, Brian is delighted to see his creation come to life. The robot – which is later given the name Charles Petrescu – quickly becomes Brian’s best friend, and the two spend lots of time together.
But Brian soon becomes concerned about Charles and his inquisitive nature. Brian’s nearest neighbours are an unscrupulous bunch, and he worries that if they see Charles out and about around the village, they will steal him.
Keen to keep his friend safe, Brian informs Charles that he must remain in the house at all times. But with Charles ready to explore the outside world, Brian finds himself fighting a losing and worrying battle to keep him from harm.
Odd, quirky, and quintessentially British, Brian and Charles is an incredibly unusual, yet deeply moving and very satisfying movie. The film looks at the importance of friendship between two unlikely characters, and explores the love and humanity that exists between this pairing.
A significant amount of the movie is about what it means to find a friend and the difference it can make to someone who is considered an outsider. Charles means everything to Brian, and it is likely he is the only friend that Brian has ever had, so this new friendship is incredibly important to him.
On the flipside, the rest of the movie is about Brian doing everything he can to protect his friend. Outside forces pose a significant threat to Charles, and this becomes a constant source of fear for Brian.
In between all of this, is a story about growth, about love, and about parenthood. It is a film about giving someone life and then learning to let go, in order for them to live it.
Brian and Charles is a movie which takes its audience on a familiar journey, but it is a journey which is fascinating to watch and undeniably effective. It has the power to produce a range of emotions, is guaranteed to tease out a smile or two, and is nothing less than brilliant.
What makes Brian and Charles so effective is its story, its use of humour, and its heart. All three work in unison to produce a picture which is utterly bonkers, often quite preposterous, and yet somehow kind of believable.
OK, maybe not entirely believable, but its charm, its sense of wonder, and its imagination are enough to paper over any issues surrounding the validity of its premise. Just like the Wallace and Gromit shorts, or the Paddington films, Brian and Charles is strong enough in every department to allow its audience to suspend belief for the duration of its running time and not question the reality of a talking robot built from a washing machine.
And just like those aforementioned properties, Brian and Charles is very much a product of its environment. The film – shot entirely in Wales – is so very, very British; from its setting and its gloomy weather, through to its cast and its use of comedy.
If you’re a fan of British films, then this is most certainly for you. And if you’re a fan of films in general, then this is for you too.
Brian and Charles is not your ordinary picture, and it’s not something you’re going to get bored with. The film moves at a brisk pace, is never less than interesting, and is delightful through and through.
It takes easily identifiable and relatable themes, works them into a small-scale tale, and hammers home its message with tenderness and spirit. It doesn’t put a foot wrong and is truly lovely.
Should you watch it? Yes. And do it now.