Brian and Charles review – robot comedy is this year’s bromance | Movies
HJoy, loneliness and stupidity come together in this sensational emotional adventure developed by writers David Earl and Chris Hayward from their 2017 short film of the same name, and directed by Jim Archer. The film is partly about an AI robot called Charles. But fortunately, unlike a lot of serious sci-fi, this movie does not require us to wonder if AI robots are able to think independently or if you can fall in love with them, etc. etc. Charles, a free-thinking robot, is charged with many things, but an ontological crisis is not one of them.
Earl himself plays Brian, a nerdy middle-aged guy who lives alone in a Welsh cottage that he has all too clearly inherited from his deceased parents. He speaks directly to a character behind the camera, with a strange, self-conscious nervous giggle: Earl has worked with Ricky Gervais on TV a good deal, and as a performer he may have acquired some David Brent ways to go with the sentimental comedy.
Poor Brian has recently come through a tactical unspecified emotional crisis and has now thrown himself into his hobby: inventing things. He has developed an egg belt – ie a belt to have eggs in – and a cone bag, a bag with cones glued on, which is not an invention as much as a design concept. He has tried a flying bicycle, but it is only when he searches for raw materials from garbage with a fly, and discovers a glove and a mannequin head, that he is inspired to try his masterpiece: a robot.
As a mix of Caractacus Potts and Victor Frankenstein, Brian works day and night in his shed with the creation, which will give him friendship and intimacy for the first time in his life, and brings him together with a woman in the village who has a lover in him, Hazel (Louise Brealey). Brian does his best to keep Charles in a state of ET-like secrecy and disguise, but his creature catches the eye of a horrible neighborhood bully named Eddie (Jamie Michie). And fans of the horror of the people will be nervous to hear that Eddie arranges a big annual bonfire.
Charles is a fascinating character, the laughter comes from the small head of the giant body and the robot voice with his singing-singing falling tone mannerism, taken from Stephen Hawking. Charles looks a bit like an old and non-aristocratic version of Ray Alan’s creepy belly doll Lord Charles. But it was only a third of the way into the film that it struck me: with the whipped hair around my bald head, Charles looks exactly like the late Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn, editor of Literary Review. In fact, he even sounds a bit like Auberon Waugh. Did Brian dig up the body to create Charles? Once the resemblance is seen, it can not be invisible, and it made me a little hysterical.
It’s not easy to develop a sketchy idea into a feature film and not easy to turn from ironic comedy to dark Straw Dogs-style threat, and then to a sweet happy ending. But Earl, Hayward and Archer have made it. It’s this year’s bromance.