A Review of Brian And Charles by Jim Archer


A Review of Brian And Charles by Jim Archer

(left to right) David Earl as Brian and Chris Hayward as Charles in Director Jim Archer's Brian And Charles.

(left to right) David Earl as Brian and Chris Hayward as Charles in Director Jim Archer’s Brian And Charles.
photo: focus functions

Mockumentary filmmaking and offbeat high concepts are a couple made in budget-conscious heaven, taking ideas that might be too weird or outlandish for producers to risk funding and embracing them in a lo-fi package to present something that is deliberately absurd – and therefore endearing. That mentality seems to be the driving force behind director Jim Archer and co-writers/co-stars David Earl and Chris Hayward Brian and Charlesa feature-length adaptation of her 2017 short film of the same name. Thankfully, her goofy odd-pairs premise develops enough traction to fill out a feature run, though not without some trouble crossing the finish line.

Stylistically similar to 2014 What we do in the shadows, this supposedly human interest documentary follows the exploits of Brian (David Earl), a Welsh recluse who spends his lonely days tinkering with inventions that never really manifest themselves in anything revolutionary. Whether he’s rebuilding a bicycle into a flying cuckoo clock that inexplicably catches fire, or lugging trawls on his shoes at the local market for no apparent purpose, Brian’s odd tendencies make him a loveable outcast. Not to be dissuaded from his exaggerated ambitions, he strives to build a robot to help him around the house, although he has trouble even remembering the term “artificial intelligence”. Inexplicably, his experiment works and the oddly self-proclaimed Charles Petrescu (Chris Hayward) is born.

Constructed of a pair of inexplicably realistic robotic legs, a washing machine torso cloaked in an oversized shirt and cardigan, and a professorial mannequin head, Charles approaches the world with a childlike fascination. Speaking with the intonation of Microsoft Sam and a vocabulary developed from reading the dictionary, Charles quickly befriends Brian, who teaches this new companion all the important things in life, such as how to cook cabbage or when to dance a jig. In a word, the relationship is sweet, punctuated by Earl and Hayward’s expertly timed deadpan performance, which turns even a scene as innocuous as darts tossing into an exercise in charming character work.

If the writers had been content to let their characters exist in a series of extended television pilot-style slice-of-life sketches, Earl and Hayward could have easily gotten away with it, but their desire to be a bit more ambitious ends up being something of a mixed bag. Most intriguing is the film’s notion that Charles isn’t simply Brian’s offbeat sidekick, but is actually the closest thing to a child, with independent wants and needs that Brian can’t always fulfill within the confines of his remote homestead. As he begins to go against his creator, picking fights and isolating himself with angsty metal music in The Walking Washing Machine’s equivalent of teenage rebellion, this willful boundary-testing clashes with Brian’s desire to protect Charles and keep him to himself.

This feeds an underlying tension in which Brian fears the outside world, typified by a soft-spoken relationship with village bully Eddie (Jamie Michie) and his reluctance to flirt with the clearly interested Hazel (Louise Brealey). These competing values ​​compel Brian to grow in character, which is a not-too-subtle metaphor for the transformative impact of parenthood, in which the child is no less a creature of their own creation than they are their creator’s offspring.

Unfortunately somewhere on the way to the third act, Brian and Charles loses some of its charm by sacrificing sugar-sweet sentimentality. In a strangely misplaced placement of narrative priorities, the two are separated for much of the film’s final half-hour, seemingly aiming to invoke a sense of danger and distress at odds with the previously established outright absurdism. In a limitation of the mockumentary framework, the focus is entirely on Brian’s arc, but without Charles’ presence, the emphasis is placed far more on his willingness to temper his reclusive nature than on his ability to make Charles face the dangers of the world .

In fact, Charles’ agency is so completely stripped that his arc never fully recovers, his resolution limited to a sweet epilogue that pays lip service to a desire to explore the world that previous events would surely challenge him. It’s tempting to view this flimsy solution as a victim of adaptation from the short’s proof of concept to a full-length three-act structure, where the lack of a proper extension of the initial execution of the premise resulted in a narrative that accomplishes much weaker than its original comedic promise.

Regardless of the reason Brian and Charles remains a charming film nonetheless. Often hilarious and never without heart, there’s a lot to love about this tale of an unconventional, cabbage-loving madman and his 10-foot-tall mechanical son. Even if it’s a bit thin thematically and doesn’t quite manage to condense the themes it has into a cohesive whole, sometimes all it takes is an offbeat sense of humor and a premise odd enough to make a lasting impression to leave.

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