Brian and Charles | Review of the new quirky comedy about one man and his robot
review star review star review star review star review blank star

Brian and Charles

Review of the new quirky comedy about one man and his robot

Brian and Charles is a whimsy of such sweet, optimistic nature that you forget the silliness of its premise and forgive its simplistic storytelling.

The titular Brian is a version of the Brian Gittins character that star David Earl sometimes performs on the comedy circuit. He’s a socially detached sad-sack, living in semi-isolation in a desolate, rain-sodden corner of Wales. ‘Things went a bit topsy-turvy in life,’ he tells us sorrowfully as we meet him amid the clutter of his workshop where he invents things that nobody wants - even if they did work.

After his airborne cuckoo clock ends in fiery disaster, he has a bash at making a robot with a washing machine for a torso, a mannequin’s head and a few bits of discarded ironmongery. It’s as successful as his other contraptions – until, like Frankenstein’s monster – he is given the spark of life during a passing thunderstorm. Charles Petrescu is the name he settles on, once consciousness comes.

He’s naive and curious about the world, consuming the dictionary in a single night and asking such unanswerable questions as: ‘Can birds do what they like?’ He may be built as sturdily as – well, a washing machine - but his primitive voice synthesiser mangling pronunciations and cadence gives him an endearing vulnerable and innocent air.

It’s here the film changes tone, from a gentle mickey-take of this deluded inventor and his crackpot ideas to a genial and touching father-son allegory as Brian and the surprisingly loveable Charles form their bond, both as awkward and out of place as each other. That lasts until Charles - voiced by Earl’s co-writer Chris Hayward – enters his rebellious adolescent phase, playing rock music and wanting to branch out on his own, away from his creator’s protection.

The plot here turns on to a familiar path. There’s another painfully shy woman in the village, Louise Brearly’s Hazel, who’s a love interest for Brian, if only both can overcome their timidity, while peril comes in the form of the local ne’er-do-wells, the Tommingtons and the bullying father Eddie, whose instinct is to destroy what they do not understand. It’s not much of a spoiler to say the day is saved by a contraption worthy of  Wallace, out of ‘…and Gromit’ fame.

But the film’s only 90 minutes long, so just as its limitations start becoming exposed, we’re hurtling towards the wrap-up And besides the whole endeavour is couched in such warm, optimistic tones, celebrating the curious and the quirky without judgment – and made thoroughly captivating by the gently offbeat central performances –  that only the sternest of cynics wouldn’t  be delighted by the journey.

• Brian and Charles is in cinemas now, though it’s official opening date is tomorrow.

And a message they recorded for Chortle...

Review date: 7 Jul 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.