If 2020 taught people around the globe anything, most learned to cope with what being alone truly meant, yet just how debilitating and paralyzing it can become. For decades, there’s been this uncanny premise that machines have the ability to mimic human relationships. Remember such classic television sci-fi favorites as “The Jetsons,” and “Lost in Space?” I mean who wouldn’t want a bestie like Rosie the Robot, who cleans, cooks and calls us out when it’s needed the most? Or most recently with “Star Wars,” “Short Circuit ” “Big Hero 6” or the romantic dramedy “I’m Your Man.” Regardless of whether its animation, sci-fi or narrative, the inquisitive obsession with artificial intelligence will always be a part of the cinematic landscape until it ultimately becomes a viable reality.
Brian is a quirky scientist whose inventions barely work as intended until Charles. Not only is Charles not another invention gone awry, he provides much needed companionship for Brian with surprising results.
With this uniquely intriguing directorial debut from Jim Archer, Brian and Charles is less about an inventor than the kinship between this human and his A.I. A relationship that starts out very much like a parent and child evolves into an unselfish pairing of besties who literally would ride or die for each other.
What’s unique is the film is mostly shot like a mockumentary without a single crew member in sight and David Earl as Brian (mostly muttering) second guessing himself all the way. Yet, the consistent hammering at the beginning of the film speeding up and slowing down as Brian discusses his life’s progression sets up the film as his invention comes to life during an electrical storm like a modern day Frankenstein complete with a wig, glasses and cardigan ala Mr. Rogers.
This unlikely pair play darts, dance and Charles is rewarded with treats like a brand new puppy all under the delightfully cheeky tune “Happy Together” by 60’s rock band The Turtles. However, in an unexpected twist when Charles is stolen and held hostage by the town bully Eddie (deliciously inhabited by Jamie Michie), we see Brian gain the strength and confidence he had all along like the Lion, TinMan and Scarecrow from Oz all rolled up into one. In the end, much like a parent watching their kid go off to college, even though your heart is shredded for a moment, the joy of watching a loved one have the chance to go out and make their own way in the world is wonderfully fulfilling.
Distributed by Focus Features, Brian and Charles’ last bit resonated and moves a little swifter while giving audiences a quirky tale whose universal appeal of how saying goodbye to a loved one (artificial or human) will always sting just a little no matter what the circumstances.