I’m gonna come out and say it (this way I can wear my bias on my sleeve). I love British comedy. You can’t say that our ex-overlords have cornered the market on quirky, but they certainly do it the best. That’s why when I first saw the trailer for ‘Brian and Charles’ I knew it would be the kind of film I would need to see as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Choosing not to wait until it showed at Alamo Drafthouse, I decided to cheat on my beloved theater chain and see it over the weekend. I wore Groucho glasses and a hoodie to a small arthouse theater in downtown Austin. Please don’t revoke my season-pass, Alamo.
‘Brian and Charles’ is the type of movie that your parents see and call a “cute show”. It delivers on quirks and charm, but the substance I was hoping for was a bit sparse. It takes few risks and is an easy film to enjoy, but one you might not keep in the front of your mind long after you’ve seen it.
It’s a lot of what you expect–Presented in a new way.
‘Brian and Charles’ is the story of a quirky British loner named Brian (played by David Earl). Brian is an amateur inventor and spends most of his time thinking up and producing new projects. After a string of failed inventions, Brian decides to be even more ambitious and make his own robot out of a laundry machine. Unlike his previous inventions, he is able to bring his robot to life. The robot names himself Charles (Chris Hayward) and Brian now has a good friend, but also a desirable possession he hopes to keep from shady characters around his village. Thus begins a unique, but sometimes strained relationship with his newly created friend.
‘Brian and Charles’ story is relatively basic. It follows a trajectory that one would expect for an indie comedy about a man who builds a robot. What works for it is the unique characters it portrays. None of the characters feel like a cliché. They are both unique and relatable—no matter how bizarre they may seem on the surface. This allows for a weirdly organic relationship to form between the main characters and also Brian’s love interest Hazel (Louise Brealey). It also helps that all of these characters are genuinely likable.
The downside of ‘Brian and Charles’ however is how quickly it starts to lose steam. There is only so much quirky/funny characters can do before the simplicity of the story starts to get a bit stale. However, the filmmakers seem to notice this happening because the story wraps itself up before it becomes too bland.
The portrayal of these characters by the cast is perfect. It’s hard for me to imagine that any of these mocku-subjects are anything but the real thing. Beyond Brain, Charles, and Hazel we’re introduced to a few of the other villagers. Including Eddie (Jamie Michie); He, along with his wife and teenager daughters are the rough-side of the village. Often bullying shopkeepers and plotting to steal Charles from his home.
Worth a quick 90-minute viewing.
‘Brian and Charles’ is beautifully filmed. Shot as a mockumentary, the filmmakers do a wonderful job of highlighting the British countryside. It also leans heavily on it’s subjects to tell the story in ways that make the film more accessible and the characters likable.
Can we say that ‘Brian and Charles’ is the buddy comedy smash of the summer? Well it depends on who you ask. In that vein, I don’t see a lot of other buddy-comedies on the slate for the next few months so it may win by default.
To be clear, I’m certainly not saying ‘Brian and Charles’ is bad. On the contrary, there is a lot to love about it. If we’re being honest though it front-loads most of its laughs and charm. Not to say that it fizzles out, but its 90-minute runtime does it a service–not allowing it to divert into boring or unauthentic territory.
VERDICT: 3.5 out of 5 Stars.
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