By Vanessa Zimmer
Judging from viewer response, Jim Archer’s Brian and Charles Sunday premiere at the Sundance Film Festival left everyone hungry for more moments between Brian, the quirky inventor, and Charles, his homemade robot.
As audience member Leslie wrote in the Q&A chat following the documentary-style comedy: “Loved the film! So tender, funny and creative. Gimme more cabbage!”
Charles, you see, loves cabbage, and Brian eats a lot of cabbage on his rural Welsh property. Before Charles appeared, Brian spent his days building unconventional and mostly unworkable inventions.
Inspired by finding a mannequin head during one of his routine trash-heap excursions, Brian cobbles Charles together with parts from a washing machine, duct tape, some spare gloves, and other found items around his workshop. He makes Charles, he tells the camera, to help with chores around the place.
What follows is a humorous and entirely heartwarming story about loneliness, family, finding love, standing up to bullies, and letting go.
As Charles moves beyond doing a happy dance when Brian comes home, walking hand-in-hand with Brian through the countryside, and into defiant teenagehood — all the while, displaying a thirst for adventure and traveling beyond the farthest tree in the backyard — trouble brews. As do clever references to other films (“Put DOWN the cabbage!”) and TV shows (“Danger! Danger!”).
The film is based on Archer’s short film of the same name and the comedy work of David Earl (Brian) and Chris Hayward (Charles). Earl and Hayward — who appeared at Sunday’s Q&A in character as Charles and apologizing for still being in his huge, red-striped PJs — wrote the screenplay.
Festival programmer John Nein asked director Archer about comparisons of Brian and Charles to the Frankenstein story. Archer said he hadn’t thought about that at all, although he did imagine similarities to Wallace and Gromit, the animated British films about another quirky inventor (Wallace) and his loyal dog (Gromit).
Oh, and not as a spoiler, but as an enticement to watch this film is another Q&A chat comment by someone named Martin: “Charles’ credit rap (meaning his rap song played during the credits) was a nice bonus.”