Brian and Charles (2022) – Film Review
Director: Jim Archer
Cast: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey
By Sarah Morgan
A lonely bloke builds a robot and it comes to life.
That, in a nutshell, is the plot of Brian and Charles. No doubt that’s how TV listings magazines will describe it once it makes it way onto the small screen, but to merely say that would be to miss out much of the film’s charm and joie de vivre.
It’s the brainchild of David Earl and Chris Hayward, and has its origins in a podcast and short film. The latter was directed by Jim Archer, whose previous work includes TV hits The Young Offenders and Big Boys; this is his feature debut. And if you can imagine a cross between the original Frankenstein story, an Ealing comedy and a Ricky Gervais mockumentary, then you’re close to getting the gist of the tale.
Earl and Hayward also take the lead roles, although you never see the latter’s face, you simply get to witness his often hilarious and/or poignant movements instead. Comedian Earl, however, will be familiar with anyone who’s seen the Gervais projects Derek, Cemetery Junction and After Life. In the latter two, he also plays a version of Brian, a character who originally featured in a series of online videos.
This time, Brian is living in a remote cottage in North Wales, where he spends his time inventing completely useless items, including a flying cuckoo clock, a bag covered in pine cones and an egg belt. But after stumbling upon a mannequin head among debris dumped by flytippers, he hits on the idea of making himself a companion.
The result is Charles (who eventually gives himself the surname Petrescu. Not, sadly, in tribute to former Sheffield Wednesday defender Dan Petrescu, but after an author whose book lies on one of Brian’s shelves),. He’s a rather boxy chap due to his body being made from a washing machine.
Unfortunately, he initially fails to work, eventually coming to life during a rainstorm. Why remains a mystery – did he need a spark of lightning like Mary Shelley’s creature, or was a hungry mouse responsible? We’ll never know for sure, but Charles is soon mobile and curious about the world.
Although initially happy to spend time with Brian, visions of a world outside their garden as seen on TV give him wanderlust and, like a hormonal adolescent, he wants to be off exploring on his own.
Sadly, Charles’s ambitions soon bring him to the attention of the local bully, who has other plans in mind…
Earl and Hayward’s script is incredibly touching, packed with genuine heartfelt emotion. They also throw in a little romance for the hapless Brian, in the form of another lonely misfit, Hazel, played movingly by Sherlock star Louise Brearley.
The film is a musing on friendship, but even if you don’t give two hoots about such things, there are enough hilarious moments to make it a must-see – just make sure you stay tuned until the very end of the credits. You won’t regret it.