Brian and Charles (2022) Movie Review – A warm and engaging comedy

A warm and engaging comedy about one man and his washing machine companion

You will have seen odd couple comedies before but chances are, you have never seen one quite so unusual as Brian and Charles. Director Jim Archer’s film, adapted from his 2017 short, stars co-creators David Earl and Charles Hayward as the unlikely couple of the title.

Earl stars as Brian Gittens, a figure not unlike the sad-sack character he played in the Ricky Gervais comedy series, Afterlife. 

Brian lives alone on a rural Welsh farm and when he’s not earning a living as a handyman, he passes his time by creating all kinds of weird and wonderful inventions. From acorn bags (bags with acorns glued to them) to shoes made out of trawler nets, he is not short of imagination. There is just one problem: his inventions, such as his flying cuckoo clock, are mostly useless, despite his efforts to create something that will give him recognition.

His luck changes when he creates a robot (Hayward) using the various bits and pieces that he has assembled in his “infamous inventions pantry” (aka his cowshed). These pieces include an old washing machine and a mannequin head, but when he flips a switch to activate his creation, it unsurprisingly fails to work.

For Brian, the robot is just another failed invention. But on the night of a thunderstorm, he returns home to discover his ramshackle creation has come to life. Brian thinks this is because of a mouse that has climbed inside the tin-pot man and inadvertently joined two wires together but the likely reason for the robot’s awakening is a lightning bolt from the storm.

Brian names the robot Charles and the two soon become good friends. They spend their days playing darts together, boiling cabbages, having pillow fights, and watching TV. But it’s not long before the haphazardly assembled robot tires of his surroundings.

“How far does the outside go? Does it stop at the tree?” the inquisitive Charles asks Brian. After learning from his creator that the world is bigger than the field outside Brian’s cottage, the robot starts to get itchy feet. He becomes inspired by the travel programmes he watches on television and decides that he wants to go to Honolulu to dance with the Hula girls on the beach.

Brian tries to dissuade him from the idea but thanks to an adventurous spirit and a wayward nature, Charles becomes increasingly frustrated by his limited existence. This is of great concern to Brian, partly because he doesn’t want to lose his new companion and partly because he is worried for Charles’s safety.

Unfortunately, one local family does learn about Charles, and as these are people that terrorize the local community, the lives of both Brian and his robot are endangered. What was once a lighthearted comedy suddenly becomes something much darker when Eddie, the head of the family, decides that he wants Charles for himself.

The subplot involving Eddie and his bullying clan gives the film dramatic heft but it takes us away from the comical relationship between Brian and Charles. The first half of the film, when we spend time with the two of them together, is quite joyful as we watch their unusual relationship develop and there are some very funny scenes between them as they bond.

Much of the comedy comes from the contrast between Charles’s emotionless voice and childishly emotional outbursts, although David Earl manages to coax lots of laughs too during his constant asides to the camera (the film is shot in the style of a mockumentary) where he shares his off-the-wall thoughts to whoever is supposed to be watching him.

There is a genuine warmth in their relationship (even though one half of the couple is a bow-tied wearing washing machine clothed in an old cardigan), and it’s lovely to see Brian’s lonely life change because of his unusual companion. 90 minutes of the two of them spending time together would not have been unwelcome but as I mentioned, their relationship is broken up when Eddie and his family arrive to threaten their chances of happiness. The movie still retains its sense of humour but the moments of bleak horror that creep in do much to alter the movie’s feel as it becomes less whimsical and more sinister in tone.

Still, this isn’t a horror movie, despite some traumatic scenes and the occasional similarity to the Frankenstein movies of old, as it’s still a bromance movie at heart with two very unusual characters. It’s easy to fall in love with them both, Brian for his optimistic and caring nature and Charles for the child-like curiosity that endears him to us, despite his odd and slightly frightening appearance. You will have no trouble believing in their story, as unusual and ridiculous as it is, and you will be rooting for a happy outcome for them both as the story runs its course.

Brian and Charles is an odd and quirky movie that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Cynics might want to give it a miss but if you can buy into the fairytale aspects of the story, you should have a good time with this one. Just be careful not to let your kids see the movie, not because they are too young (the movie is rated PG), but because you might come home one day to find them playing dress-up with your washing machine!


Read More: Brian and Charles Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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