Brian and Charles Synopsis: Brian (David Earl) is a lonely inventor in rural Wales who spends his days building quirky, unconventional contraptions that seldom work. Undeterred by his lack of success, he soon makes his biggest project yet – a functioning robot named Charles (Chris Hayward).
Inside his forlorn Wales homestead, the eccentric Brian works tirelessly as an inventor of different oddball creations. Oddities ranging from a porcupine-decorated handbag to a flying clock failed to gain much traction for Brian, but his luck soon turns when he transforms scraps into a functioning robot in Brian and Charles.
Fittingly enough, the final product of Brian and Charles shares a symbolic connection to its protagonist’s makeshift spirit. Director Jim Archer and writer/stars David Earl and Chris Hayward collaborated on a short film of the same name in 2017. Now given the theatrical treatment, the creative trio conjures a sincere celebration of its offbeat subjects in a rousing crowdpleaser.
Crafting an unabashedly quirky comedy comes with its own set of challenges. While cemented auteurs like Wes Anderson and Taika Waititi articulate compelling experiences from their distinctive perspectives, other filmmakers often drown under the cheekiness of their playful aesthetics (Jared Hess’ post-Napoleon Dynamite career is a prime example).
Thankfully, Archer, Earl, and Hayward imbue proper balance between quirk and humanity. Brian’s idiosyncratic personality is not an artificial facade – as the character’s slew of creations showcases an isolated loner expressing himself through his own imaginative spectrum. Ultimately, each oddball product reflects Brian’s quest for connection in the harsh world around him. Earl and Hayward deserve ample praise for grounding their screenwriting pursuits in real-world sentiments. The cracks of emotionality lying under the service prevent the inherent quirkiness from ever feeling cloying or artificial.
Brian and Charles still embodies a light-hearted embrace for feel-good comedy at its core. Once Charles comes to life, the two protagonists share a humorous rapport blended from slapstick pratfalls and goofy one-liners. The film never vyes too hard for uproarious laughter, often trusting the material and actors’ charisma as the canvas for several humorous chuckles.
Brian and Charles themselves make for an incredibly affable pair. Earl’s bumbling sincerity as Brian remains a constantly engaging presence to follow, while Hayward exhibits pure dedication to his role as the matter-of-fact robot. Watching the two characters slowly open their hearts to the grand world around them elicits some genuine tugs at the heartstrings.
That said, other aspects of Brian and Charles do not translate as well to the feature-length format. Earl and Hayward craft a narrative that’s over-reliant on formulaic indie devices. Whether it’s the manic-pixie-dream-girl Brian falls for or the one-dimensional bullies tracking his path, the script would be better off embracing a less hackneyed narrative approach. These are familiar flaws of a debut feature-length script, but I credit Earl and Hayward for righting the ship with their satisfying, feel-good conclusion.
In a summer dominated by noisy blockbusters, Brian and Charles dawns the affectionate glow of a warm-hearted embrace. The film’s silly comedy acts as a refreshing breath of fresh air – one I hope audiences get a chance to undertake on the big screen.
Brian and Charles is now playing in theaters.
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