Review by Dan Skip Allen
It has become a trend lately that films use documentary-style filmmaking where the main character is being filmed, and their story unfolds as the viewer is watching it. That's part of the premise with Brian and Charles. The other aspect of the film is a Frankenstein-esque creation by the lead character, which leads to typical tropes we've seen a lot in Hollywood.
Brian (David Earl) lives a solitary life at Ploxgreen Cottage, his home, which is a bit of a mess. He has books on the shelf showing him how to build things. He's a fledgling inventor and tinkerer. He likes to make gadgets and so forth. One day, he comes across a pile of junk, giving him the idea to make a robot. At first, the robot doesn't work, but eventually, it comes to life. Brian gives it the name of Charles Petrescu, voiced by Chris Wayward.
This character in the film is kind of like a lot of people these days: caucasian men who live alone and have no redeeming qualities. They may possess a skill so they can work and pay their bills but are pretty depressed and lonely. They are even pretty shy and nervous around women. The lead character of Brian has a pretty good relationship with the robot Charles, similar to that of a father and son. He teaches him about life and the world. Charles learns a little bit on his own from reading books as well.
This is a clear-cut Frankenstein story set in the outskirts of England. There is even a mob led by a local man who finds out about Charles and takes him for his daughters because he can. Brian is too afraid to stand up to him. These filmmakers are obviously huge Mary Shelley fans, but who isn't? Frankenstein's monster is one of the greatest literary characters in history, and it was previously adapted brilliantly by James Whale in the 1933 Universal Monsters classic, starring Boris Karloff as the monster.
Brian and Charles is a story of friendship and love to some extent. It is about a man who comes out of his shell to prove he's worth more than people give him credit. Even a local woman he is smitten with, Hazel (Louise Brealey), comes around in the end. People such as Brian need to know they are cared about even if they don't think they are. The use of the Frankenstein story is, in some sense, a metaphor for life. And we don't need robots or make-believe friends to prove we are worth more in life.
This film is competently helmed by Jim Archer, and Universal/Focus Features scooped it up out of the Sundance Film Festival this past year. It looks really good, considering the backdrop it takes place in. I feel audiences will fall in love with this little story. People can always use a feel-good story, and this is just that. Focus knows where their bread is buttered, and it's these kinds of little indie films people can get behind.
Brian and Charles hits theaters on June 17.