MThe archetypal tale of Ary Shelley’s “Modern Prometheus” is given an absurdist modern twist by actors and co-writers David Earl and Chris Hayward in this bizarre and extremely likable couple’s fable about an eccentric inventor and his ramshackle robot. Blending the charm of DIY physical comedy (there’s a touch of Quiet operationanthropomorphic drones in square droid movements) to sentimental tragicomic melancholy, this Sundance festival favorite offers a delightful antidote to the horrors of the global news cycle and the cynicism of the blockbuster franchises that currently pass for entertainment.” fantastic”.
“I was very lonely,” says Brian (Earl), a singular man who lives in a remote cottage in the North Wales Valleys, where he spends his time in his “infamous pantry of inventions” (AKA his barn). Here, he puts together extravagant creations like the pine cone bag, the flying cuckoo, the egg belt and the trawler’s nets for shoes – until the day when the discovery of a fly-tipped mannequin head gives him bigger ideas. Like a kind cross between Caractacus Potts and Victor Frankenstein, Brian drags the disembodied head and an old washing machine into his workshop and, with a little help from a handy thunderstorm, breathes random life into a childishly sentient robot.
Meet Charles (Chris Hayward), a latter-day Tin Man with completely mismatched body parts and a glitchy Max Headroom voice that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Wallace and Gromit animation. “I’m your friend,” says Charles, whose nervous feet were made for dancing and whose wonder at the world around him (“How far does ‘outside’ go? Does it stop to the tree?”) strangely recalls that of the young survivor of Bedroom. Brian thinks it’s best to keep Charles (who graciously adopts the surname “Petrescu”) a secret from the locals, and so the couple spend their days playing darts, cooking cabbage, riding bikes , having pillow fights and watching TV travel shows that give Charles a wanderlust to visit places like “Hono-loop-loop”.
It’s an idyllic existence, ecstatically captured in a montage played on the turtles’ Happy Together. Yet, all too soon, electronic adolescence dawns and Charles begins to look like a carefree teenager, even though his little head is more like that of an eccentric teacher whose wayward way will strike a chord with anyone who has seen older parents succumb to the strange infantilization. of Alzheimer’s.
The characters of Brian and Charles grew out of an internet radio show and a live number that spawned a catchy short film in 2017.. In this original screen incarnation, the only real narrative tension came from Brian locking Charles in a shed after stealing one of his prized cabbages, before sending him to live under a tree – a decision he made. almost instantly regretted. For the feature film, there is clearly a need to increase the dramatic stake. Thus, we are introduced to local bully and bonfire builder Eddie Tommington (Jamie Michie) whose family terrorizes the neighborhood; and to Hazel (Louise Brealey), a kindred spirit who lives with her overbearing mother and a talkative parrot, and whose companionship Charles instinctively encourages Brian to woo, with tenderly touching results.
Director Jim Archer, whose TV CV includes BBC stints young offenders and channel 4 big boys, say that Brian and Charles is “mostly about loneliness and the power of friendship and companionship”, a theme this wonderfully tattered film shares with more polished American AI productions such as Marjorie Prime and more particularly, Robot & Frank. The humor here is quintessentially British, with the nervous laughter of Brian’s monologues facing the camera (the film has a very loose mock-doc structure) evoking the mind of Ricky Gervais, with whom Earl collaborated on shows such as Derekwith which it shares certain tonal similarities.
Cinematographer Murren Tullett lends dazzling cinematic grandeur to the darkly beautiful exteriors, while composer Daniel Pemberton’s score blends nursery rhyme innocence with an electronic sheen that perfectly embodies the dueling elements of the storybook character. of Charles fairies. The result has house charm to spare, proving delightfully ridiculous but also poignant. Oh, and while this might not be a megabuck Marvel movie with countless silly end-credits scenes, it’s worth sticking around for the Charles Petrescu rap that’s tucked away at the very end of the movie.