Fans of Ricky Gervais’ After Life will recognise David Earl as an actor capable of delivering effective comedic performances. The latter is probably one of the main reasons why so many viewers are adding Brian and Charles to their festival radar. Nevertheless, the simplistic yet interesting premise behind the film is enough to convince anyone to give this movie a shot. Based on their short film of the same name, Earl and Chris Hayward — who also portray the two protagonists — extend their original story to a feature-length screenplay; directed once again by Jim Archer.

It’s tough to find a major flaw in Brian and Charles. Its concept isn’t particularly new, nor is the story utterly unique. However, it beautifully executes everything that it sets out to do. Earl delivers an expectedly hilarious performance but also shows tremendous dramatic potential for future roles. The actor embodies the authenticity of his character, Brian, and creates a genuine connection with the Hayward-voiced robot, Charles. It’s impossible not to feel compassion for an otherwise lonely, hardworking, inventive character.

Hayward offers excellent voice-over, being one of the primary sources of some big, loud laughs. Comedy is on-point throughout the entire runtime. Still, no matter how strong or how often the viewers laugh, it’s the beautiful, lovely, feel-good story about true friendship and human connection that conquers the audience’s heart. The biggest achievement of Archer, Earl, and Hayward’s craft is making the relationship between the two leads so real, that the viewer may forget that one of characters is a robot.

Technically, Brian and Charles also possesses surprising attributes. Murren Tullett’s grounded, doc-like cinematography allows for a couple of fun fourth-wall breaks and a few gorgeous shots of Wales; while the clever needle-drops provide an extra layer of entertainment. Regarding this last element: please, don’t forget to stay for the end credits for a hilarious surprise. In the end, Jim Archer takes David Earl and Chris Hayward’s original screenplay and uses their extraordinary, humorous performances to bring to life a narrative about true friendship and authentic human connections. The light humour consistently forces the audience to let go of strong, blasting laughs; either through genuinely funny interactions between the two protagonists or using physical comedy as a lively storytelling instigator.

Still Courtesy – Focus Features
Brian and Charles premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition category. Focus Features will release the film in the coming months.

By Manuel São Bento

A 28-year-old critic with a tremendous passion for film, television, and the art of filmmaking. An unbiased perspective from someone who stopped watching trailers since 2016. Member of GFCA, IFSC, and OFTA. Approved on Banana Meter. Social media: @msbreviews.