Robotic companion movies should not a brand new concept — solely final yr, Tom Hanks constructed himself a brand new pal in Finch — however this can be the primary one the place the robotic wears a bow tie and a knitted, second-hand cardigan. An instantly likeable comedian fable, Brian And Charles is a type of mockumentary AI-buddy film mixing sci-fi surrealism with British understatement, which performs like This Is Spinal Faucet crossed with Massive Hero 6.
Tailored from the 2017 quick movie of the identical title — itself tailored from a brilliantly weird stand-up act — the movie lastly provides the long-running, heavy-bespectacled comedian character Brian Gittins (David Earl) his big-screen second within the solar, after a number of bit-parts in Ricky Gervais initiatives like After Life and Cemetery Junction. Actually, you’ll be able to detect the odd early-era Gervaisian flourish to this movie, with Earl giving the digital camera an occasional David Brent-esque side-eye look. Nevertheless it’s a sweeter affair than Earl’s work in, say, Derek, and first-time director Jim Archer confidently channels a Hal Ashby sensibility: a dry, comedic tone and a good-looking, low-key filmmaking type, all laced with its personal explicit rural eccentricity.
There are flashes of cinematic style ambition inside its presumably low funds, however it maintains a charmingly homespun really feel.
The character of Brian Gittins has taken many kinds through the years, however on this guise he’s a type of nutty professor, perpetually inventing ineffective tat — a pine-cone bag, an egg belt. Then he decides to make a brand new pal: Charles Petrescu (Chris Hayward), a robotic who might maybe fill the unstated void of loneliness in his life. There are flashes of cinematic style ambition inside its presumably low funds — Charles arrives throughout a lightning storm, à la Frankenstein’s Monster, and Archer makes the many of the dramatic Welsh landscapes — however it all the time maintains a charmingly homespun really feel.
Nothing is extra homespun than Charles, who speaks completely in a deadpan, synthesised voice, just like the Talking Clock’s mad cousin. He has a toddler-like curiosity, continuously flummoxing Brian with existential questions like, “Can birds do what they like?” He broadcasts his common disco events with the phrase, “Intelligent boy dance time!” He performs darts and boils cabbages. His face is expressionless and his voice is impassive, however by the strangeness of his look and the purely bodily efficiency of Hayward, he’s, unbelievably, one in every of latest cinema’s most adorable comedian characters.
Collectively, Brian and Charles hold issues constantly humorous, often veering down much less apparent avenues. However the quirkiness of the premise is all the time tempered with shocking perception, and whereas not the whole lot feels as well-rounded as these two leads — Brian’s ostensible love curiosity, Hazel, performed by Sherlock’s Louise Brealey, shouldn’t be afforded as a lot depth — it by no means loses sight of the straightforward central themes of loneliness and friendship. Brian primarily makes Charles to be his greatest mate, and by the tip, you’ll need to be his greatest mate, too.