Similarly, the film isn’t built for everyone, but those with a taste for sweet-natured eccentricity will find much to like here.
Brian leads a solitary life working on his whimsical inventions, like a puzzle made from ping pong balls, an airborne cuckoo clock, an egg belt and trawler net shoes. “They don’t always work,” he says. “but I’ve got so many ideas up here I just move on to the next one. Doesn’t bother me.”
He‘s a dreamer with an active imagination and a shed stuffed with spare parts, like a broken washing machine and a mannequin head, which he uses to cobble together an ungainly, seven-foot tall robot. Unlike most of his other creations, the “very, very cheeky robot” actually works. “I’ve learned building a robot is like making a cake,” says Brian. “You start off wanting a Victorian Sponge and wind up with a Blancmange.”
With a blue light that gives his one eye a twinkle, the artificially intelligent automaton names himself Charles Petrescu (Chris Hayward) and quickly becomes Brian’s best friend. “My tummy is a washing machine!” he exclaims. They watch television together, share Brian’s favorite cabbage-based dishes for dinner and even the occasional hula dance.
As Charles “grows up” he becomes truculent. He wants to leave Brian’s rural Welsh village to see the world and listens to heavy metal music that cuts through the quiet of Brian’s cottage like a knife blade. His new bad attitude also brings him to the attention of town bully Eddie (Jamie Michie) who wants Charles for his own, to entertain his kids.
Shot mockumentary style, “Brian and Charles” is an oddball portrait of a lonely man who finds companionship, a sense of purpose and courage in an unlikely way. The title characters, with the help of Hazel (Louise Brealey), a local woman (and possible love interest), become a family, with all the ups and downs that suggests.
“Brian and Charles” is sweet, bizarre and quietly funny, with a scene stealing performance from Hayward, whose voice work as Charles is both charming and hilarious. The film has a very distinct voice, heavy on the awkward humor, that won’t be for everyone. But for every gag that feels stretched there is an undercurrent of amiability that draws the viewer in.
Eddie, the film’s bully, is played with too hard an edge and seems somewhat out of place, but apart from that one misstep, “Brian and Charles” is a singular, original take on finding your logical, not biological family.