David Reviews

 "You're not an artist, Peggy. You solve problems." Don Draper.

BRIAN & CHARLES RIDE AGAIN
13 July 2022

When DAVID heard that a film called 'Brian & Charles' about a lonely man and his robot had won the Audience Prize at this year's Sundance Festival, he was possessed with a strange sense of deja vu. The question burrowing its way to the forefront of his mind was: how had a 2017 short film won so much acclaim after all this time?

What DAVID hadn't realised was that the marvellous short he'd seen five years ago had been turned into a feature-length film, and that it was this, rather than the original that had wowed the festival goers in Salt Lake City.

A few days ago, DAVID had the opportunity to find out how successfully the tale had translated from its bittersweet origins to a bigger canvas when he attended a special screening at the BFI on the South Bank. And he is extremely pleased to report that the greater ambition of this project has enhanced rather than dimmed the considerable charm of the original.

In a highly entertaining post-screening Q&A featuring David Earl (Brian), Chris Hayward (Charles) and director Jim Archer, the latter revealed that he'd initially opposed reusing the mockumentary style of the short, but had come to realise that Brian's own description of his life was the best way of establishing his loneliness. It speaks volumes for Archer's pragmatism that he changed his mind, and it says even more for his humility that he so honestly admitted that he'd been wrong.


David Earl's fantastic instinct for balancing comedy with pathos is what gives the film both its biggest laughs and its emotional heart. Because the film is played for laughs, it would be easy to underestimate the brilliance of Earl's performance, and the superbly measured way that Archer brings it to the screen.

Brian is a man who knows only too well that he's desperately lonely, but is determined that the world will not see that... and he's pretty convinced he's fooled everyone. To perfectly capture this paradoxical state of mind takes remarkable skill, and a complete understanding of its complexity.

It must have been challenging as well to avoid turning the dial too far when showing the audience the grimness of Brian's life. The permanently overcast Welsh weather heaps metrological reinforcement of the existential misery, but the audience is rescued from being overwhelmed by Brian's happy-go-lucky nature and his apparently misplaced optimism.

The absurdity of his invention being sparked to life is never troubling either. Instead of undermining the plot, the brash implausibility of Charles becomes another tenet of the comedy, and adds further to the overall triumph.

This is a film to be celebrated. During the Q&A, David Earl said that making a film is so difficult that it should be considered a triumph to complete any film, even if it's terrible. Anyone who's been through the agony of the experience will understand what he means. But, of course, this film is anything but terrible, and it's wonderful to see it receiving the plaudits it deserves... so why not be part of giving it the audience it deserves by seeing it on the big screen.

'Brian & Charles' is on general release and can be seen at all good cinemas. For more on Jim Archer, contact Hughie Philips at MindsEye on 020 7636 4100.

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