I was very low.
Brian Gittins (David Earl) lives in a cottage well off the beaten path—proud that the nearest shop is about seven miles away. We assume this is his choice. That he enjoys the solitude. But even introverts need human interaction at some point. So, when the inevitable depression set in, Brian decided to build a friend. With a found head and some cogs to go with the levers he “knew were lying about,” Charles (Chris Hayward) is born. What starts as a one-sided dynamic wherein the latter serves a role to the former, however, can’t help but evolve regardless of desire. If Charles is a sentient being, he will need to wrestle some of that control away for himself. The question is whether Brian adapts to his awakening.
Written by Earl and Hayward, Jim Archer‘s short film Brian and Charles is a quirky little comedy that pushes its scenario to its edges by utilizing the age-old trope of setting a pet “free.” Despite the fondness Brian has for his new roommate, there are lines he’s simply not willing to let be crossed yet. He’s lived alone for so long that he’s forgotten how to share. So, when Charles starts to rebel against his wishes by daring to eat some cabbage from the fridge without permission, Brian short-circuits. Suddenly we see that the latter has learned nothing from his experience with depression. He merely wants to exploit the idea of Charles for his own purposes without providing him the room to grow autonomously. The solution: exile him.
The humor excels from the performers giving their all to bring these eccentric characters to life. The comedic timing is impeccable and the jokes often as pithy as they are witty. When Brian locks Charles away from the cottage, we hear the robot calling his name without pause. He doesn’t get tired. He doesn’t need to sleep. So, his confusion and fear lead him to howl, as it were, like a dog who’s being chastised and excluded from the life to which he’s grown accustomed. Brian forgets that Charles isn’t a man. If anything, he’s a child. He needs to be taught what it is to cohabitate, and, in turn, Brian must too. Because the frustration doesn’t compare to the solitude. Being alone again will always be worse.
It’s no surprise the filmmakers expanded this conceit to feature length status because it feels like a proof of concept. The minimal plot and showcase for tone and dynamic give us an introduction to a rapport that can be thrust into numerous other morality tales like the one presented via Charles’ unceremonious expulsion. As an end credits stinger teases by showing Charles entering the house with a shotgun before creeping through the room as though on a hunt, the joke and sight-gag potential is also plentiful. These scenarios push the duo to their limits and ultimately teach them what it means to be alive. Because it’s a two-way road. Charles will only ever be as good as Brian reciprocates. One must give love to receive it.