Sundance Film Festival London 2022: Brian and Charles Review

In this sweet and funny mockumentary from Jim Archer, a lonely inventor makes a robot out of a washing machine.

brian and charles (1)


In this sweet and funny mockumentary from Jim Archer, a lonely inventor makes a robot out of a washing machine.

Meet Brian (David Earl). He lives in a cosy cottage in a village in rural Wales. His favourite food is cabbage and he likes inventing things, all kinds of things. He tries to make a flying apparatus and he’s got a gadget for almost everything. Not that any of them work, but Brian seems happy to just be making them. One day, he decides to finally fulfil his dream and make a robot to be his friend. 

Enter Charles (Chris Hayward), made out of a washing machine and a mannequin head. Together they live a playful, but peaceful existence. That is, until Charles wants to see the world and Brian doesn’t want him to leave. Can I get an “uh oh”?

Brian and Charles is exactly how you would expect it to be. Shot in a mockumentary style, it gently explores Brian’s loneliness. Every now and then, there’s a feeling that the film is making fun of Brian, but it quickly regains the sweet tone that dominates the film.

brian and charles

It’s the chemistry between Brian and Charles, or actors Earl and Hayward, that carries the film. Even when the mockumentary angle seems stale or the jokes get repetitive, the dynamic between the two lights up the screen. Charles decides his name is Charles Petrescu and most of the humour stems from Charles learning new things and maturing. 

Charles’ evolution in the film is that of a child maturing; he starts out all innocent and child-like and grows into a rebellious, moody teenager, which immediately gets him in trouble. Brian and Charles is equally a coming-of-age story as it is a story about two friends, which ever so slightly elevates the film, which occasionally feels like a collection of different elements all put into one film and the creative team hoping it all gels together coherently enough. 

Brian and Charles is like a tale of Frankenstein and his monster, only much jollier. It’s not a particularly deep film; director Jim Archer doesn’t seem particularly interested in exploring themes about artificial intelligence or independence, but its most resonant theme is that of loneliness. 

How do we cope with loneliness and disappointment? Brian’s neverending positivity, while a tad irritating, is infectious and life-affirming in its nature. He forms a bond with local woman Hazel (Louise Brealey) and their budding relationship, while a threat to Charles, is so endearing and tender, it’s almost infuriating. It’s also a little naive, but again, Brian and Charles isn’t here to explore its themes with maturity or self-seriousness, but with warmth and humour. 

brian and charles cast

The film will hardly change your life, but it’ll probably give it an injection of hope and sweetness. We could all do with some of that every now and again and in that sense, Brian and Charles seems like the perfect film. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity; with an extra 10 or 15 minutes, it could have explored its themes a little deeper and the mockumentary style is hit and miss, but if you don’t fall for Charles Petrescu, chances are your heart is made out of stone. And do stay for the credits, there’s a delightful little audio joke during them. 

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