Eccentric loner Brian (David Earl) decides to build a lifelike robot from parts around his secluded house in rural Wales after growing weary of solitude. At first, the robot - named Charles (Chris Hayward) - is friendly and childlike, but soon grows tired of the quiet countryside and yearns to visit the world outside - particularly Honolulu. As Brian tries to keep Charles, he builds a relationship with Hazel (Louise Brealey)...
'Brian and Charles' might seem like a relatively staid and simple title for a quirky comedy of this order. Neither name elicits anything of surprise or shock, and the action here is just the same. It's small-scale. The robot Charles is built from a washing machine and mannequin parts. Brian is dressed in dingy overalls while Charles wears a bowtie. If the camerawork was exceptionally fussy and the colouring wasn't the winterish grey of Wales, you'd think someone was describing a Wes Anderson movie.
Even though you could argue that it's another quaint and quirky comedy from our neighbours across the sea, 'Brian and Charles' has more in common with something like 'Wall-E' or 'Short Circuit'. There's an innocence about it that's admittedly hard to grasp at first when you have a heavily bearded man describing how he built a talking robot because of loneliness. Yet, it manages to wear you down in such a way that it works far better than it should.
David Earl's ability to riff out entire scenes with Chris Hayward from almost nothing pads out the movie when the story runs short, and their comedic sensibility is authentic and solid. Additionally, bringing in Louise Brealey as the chaste love interest never dilutes the comedy either. Jamie Michie's local bully is hard enough to almost feel like he's mismatched for the movie, but it's still a minor complaint in an otherwise solid cast.
The main issue with 'Brian and Charles' is that you can really tell that it's a short stretched out to a feature. Sure, the comedy beats are there, but the story around it is wafer-thin in a way that is all too revealing of the budgetary limits and the rougher edges of it all. Of course, that might just be the point. 'Brian and Charles' isn't some slick, witty, urbane comedy with wry witticisms.
It's a goofy sci-fi comedy set in Wales. It's not trying to be anything other than what it is. In the end, it's a movie about the healing power of creativity and friendship, done in such a way that's unconventional but effective - just like the robot itself.