The age-old story of lonely people creating their ideal mate, whether a partner or, in the case of Jim Archer’s Brian and Charles, a friend, has been repeatedly told as Brian seeks companionship of any kind.
There’s something to be said about the heart at the center of David Earl and Chris Hayward’s script, based on Archer’s 2017 short film by the same name. In rural Wales, Earl plays Brian, an awkward inventor or tinkerer; he works a full-time job to keep the pilot light on at his home. However, his social skills are deficient. He’s upset with the neighbor, the local town bully, and desperately wants more but doesn’t know how to get what he wants.
With a used wash machine about to hit the tip, Brian’s lightbulb goes off: he will create the perfect friend. Enter Charles, voiced by Hayward. Archer goes to great lengths to set Brian up as someone grasping at straws when a miracle strikes and a bond forms between the two, not before attracting the wrong sort of attention from the townsfolk.
Let’s face it – humans need contact, no hugs or kisses, but interaction with one another. For the past several years (I seem to have lost track of time), we’ve either been locked down with our families or isolated ourselves. As things slowly opened up, I could resume my chosen method of contact with friends. However, I was never out of touch with the people I cared about.
Like in the film, technology became the medium through which I learned more about myself. In this instance, Brian knows more about himself because of Charles. Archer and cinematographer Murren Tullett set the film against an unforgiving Welsh landscape with its rugged terrain and even more rugged antagonists, Eddie (Jamie Michie) and his daughters, Katrina and Suki (Lowri Izzard and Mari Izzard, respectively.)
The trouble with Brian and Charles is that their characters grate on the nerves rather quickly. I understand Brian not feeling like he’s up to par, but on a situational basis, he must be the smartest and kindest soul in Wales. That doesn’t necessarily make up for his awkward social skills, which deflated the character rather quickly. On the other hand, Charles has a childlike desire to explore his world and interact.
One gets the sense that Archer, Earl, and Hayward could be a modern Larry, Moe, and Curley with their antics. With the right story, the trio could be the next Lord and Miller.
If you forgive the expression, Brian and Charles strive to be more than the sum of their parts. Louise Brealey, like Hazel, does even out the characters at the expense of the story. The antagonists are far more boisterous than the protagonists, and the beautiful cinematography is more of a catchall than it was probably meant to be.
Archer, Earl, and Hayward’s hearts are in the right place however the intended humor falls flat. There wasn’t enough material to fill Brian and Charles’ 90-minute run time.