Film review: Brian and Charles

David Earl stars as a lonely, luckless inventor who takes on his most ambitious project yet

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Surreal British comedy Brian and Charles (from 8 July, Home, Manchester and cinemas regionwide) stars David Earl (TV’s Derek and After Life) as bearded loner Brian, who lives in remote rural Wales and keeps himself busy creating madcap inventions. When his flying cuckoo clock fails to take off, he decides his next project will be building a robot from odd and ends. The result is Charles (Chris Hayward), an artificially intelligent machine with a washing machine tummy and a manakin’s head. At first, Brian is awestruck by his creation and pleased to have a new friend, but trouble brews as Charles starts wanting to explore the world beyond the boundaries of their isolated farm.

Written by its stars Earl and Hayward and based on a short film, this starts out as an endearingly weird mockumentary. Earl portrays Brian as both frighteningly odd and desperately sad as he holds a darts match against himself in his rundown house and tells the camera-crew of his love for cabbages. It’s a wonderful performance. Hayward too excels as the mishappen creation Charles. The quirky script sees him progress from frightened newborn, though daft childhood and into grumpy adolescence. I could have watched the developing relationship between the two unfold for hours, and the first half of this film is a true joy to behold.

It’s unfortunate, then, that when some drama is introduced in the shape of a local bad family headed by Eddie, a nasty bully who decides to kidnap Charles for his family’s amusement, things faulter ever so slightly. The mockumentary element of the film is put aside for a more straightforward (if still fantastical) tale involving Charles’s rescue and a burgeoning romance between Brian and local woman Hazel (Louise Brealey). Eddie’s family are cardboard-cut-out villains who seem so underdeveloped in comparison to the incredibly well thought out Charles, and whilst this part of the film still includes some touching pathos and daft fun, it feels forced in and leads to an unearned climax.

But when the credits roll after an all too brief 90 minutes, viewers are left wanting more, which can’t be a bad thing, and all in all, this is an entertaining tale with a massive metal heart at its core.

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