|Worth seeing:||as a slightly surreal exploration of friendship, told through a lonely handyman and the robot he fashions from a washing machine|
|Featuring:||Chris Hayward, David Earl, Jamie Michie, Louise Brealey, Lowri Izzard, Lynn Hunter, Mari Izzard, Nina Sosanya|
|Released:||8th July 2022|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Brian (David Earl) is a socially-awkward loner, living in a small cottage in rural Wales. He passes most of his time in his shed, building things – completely useless inventions.
While rummaging around on a local landfill site, he stumbles across a mannequin’s head. An old washing machine and an oversized shirt later, Brian has built himself a new best friend – a robot – a robot that decides to call itself Charles Petrescu (voiced by Chris Hayward).
As Charles quickly learns about the world around him, Brian tries to keep him under wraps but soon, the local ruffian Eddie (Jamie Michie) finds out about him and tries to kidnap him to throw him on the annual village bonfire.
As Charles begins to turn from a child into a teenager, can Brian protect him from Eddie, from the world – and from himself?
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Creators David Earl and Chris Hayward first brought this odd couple to the screens in a short film, directed by Jim Archer – and the success of that enabled the three to develop the idea into a feature.
Charles – and the film in general – is very much low tech – which is part of what makes it so endearing, while adding a somewhat surreal edge to it. A loner with some bric-a-brac and a screw-driver in his shed clearly wouldn’t be able to create an AI robot with the capacity to learn, but we don’t dwell on that. Brian’s an “inventor” so he can just make a robot. Fine. Move on.
Treating Charles equally as his friend – and his child – Brian’s life expands beyond belief with the arrival of the robot and as he opens up his life to Charles, it also opens up to others – including a woman who’s every bit as lonely as he is. Learning to be more inclusive leaves him feeling like every bit the outsider he ever was, as the film-makers stop just the right side of pity.
Earl has worked on a number of projects with Ricky Gervais and will be most recognisable as his sidekick from Derek and After Life, so it’s perhaps not surprising that he adopts the idea of a mockumentary, although it’s more predominant in the early part of the film, where Brian is being introduced, so it’s used more to illuminate his character rather than propel the narrative.
The audience winner at the recent Sundance London festival, there’s not too much story here and even at a tight 90 minutes, some of this feels a little like padding, but it’s warm-hearted, gently-funny and genuine.