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Review: Brian and Charles

Adapted from the short film of the same name, Brian and Charles is a British comedy about a lonely man who builds himself a robot friend. The original 13-minute short was an affecting story about depression and the need for companionship. Stretched to just shy of 90 minutes, the feature film version is thin, frustrating and ultimately overstays its welcome.

The central focus is on the eccentric Brian (co-writer David Earl) whose life has gone a bit "topsy-turvy" and he finds himself alone. He begins to invent, eventually creating the cabbage-obsessed robot Charles (voiced by co-writer Chris Hayward). To pad the film out, two new characters are introduced. There is the awkward love interest Hazel played by Louise Brealey and a town bully who has it in for Brian. These additions don't do much. Hazel is underutilized. The awkward romance results in some of the films best moments but the film doesn't commit to focusing on their budding love. The town bully subplot is predictable and cliche.

One reason the film worked better as a short was the amount of quirkiness the film dresses up in. As a short, it made the story stand out. As a film, the thick layer of quirk threatens to keep audiences at arm's length. The faux-documentary style is not given any reasoning. We never understand why a crew would be following Brian at the start of the film. He is just a lonely and weird guy. It is jarring.

While the film has some gorgeous scenery and I did find Charles to be humorous at times, thanks to Hayward's vocal performance, the film is never as genuine or charming as it should be. I think the filmmakers show promise. This film reminded me of Eagle vs Shark, Taika Waititi's first feature. That film was also too quirky to be moving but that guy figured it out and went to make several good films. Hopefully the same will be true here.



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