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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 16.Jun.22

Brian and Charles  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Brian and Charles
dir Jim Archer
prd Rupert Majendie
scr David Earl, Chris Hayward
with David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, Jamie Michie, Nina Sosanya, Lynn Hunter, Lowri Izzard, Mari Izzard, Cara Chase, Sunil Patel, Rishi Nair, Colin Bennett
release US 17.Jun.22,
UK 8.Jul.22
22/UK Focus 1h30

SUNDANCE FILM FEST
Sundance London film fest





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earl and hayward
With disarming charm that sneaks up on the audience, this offbeat British comedy-drama is packed with wonderfully quirky characters who bring a relatively simple narrative to sparkling life. Director Jim Archer takes an amusingly deadpan approach that adds an involving kick to the script, which was written by lead actors David Earl and Chris Hayward. So even if the story is rather silly, it's underscored with real heart.
In rural Wales, Brian (Earl) indulges in wacky inventions on his isolated farm. Lonely, he decides to build a robot (Hayward), a hulking contraption that comes to life and chooses the name Charles Petrescu. While having little adventures, Earl is unable to hide Charles from local villagers. This helps him get to know his crush Hazel (Brealey), but it also puts him in the crosshairs of his neighbour Eddie (Michie), who has bullied him since their school days. And Eddie's wife (Sosanya) and spoiled daughters (Lowri and Mari Izzard) decide they want Charles for themselves.
With a rollercoaster plot, the film continually shifts between goofy comedy and some genuinely nasty confrontations, with a bit of gentle romance smoothing the transitions. Despite his absurd appearance, Charles is almost startlingly likeable, with his eerily inexpressive mannequin head reflecting big emotions through a yearning coming-of-age arc from childhood curiosity through rebellious adolescence and beyond. Meanwhile, Brian's story has its own endearing trajectory as a man who finally takes on the things that have always held him back.

Performances are relaxed, relying on the nutty internal energy that each character brings to the screen. Earl makes Brian likably dopey but never stupid, and he has superb chemistry with Hayward's remarkably cheeky, mischievous Charles. Both are strong-willed, so their clashes are hilarious. And Brealey gives Hazel her own sweet eccentricities. She may be a third wheel, but she holds her own beautifully, adding some lightly unhinged romantic moments along the way. And it's also nice that Michie's cruel Eddie has some surprising complexity to him.

As the story approaches its deranged but satisfying climax, we're so won over that we don't really mind that the resolution is so abrupt. This is because each moment of the journey is packed with tiny details in imagery, sound and dialog that draw us further in, continually eliciting a smile and sometimes a proper laugh. The message about embracing and standing up for one's self might not be hugely original, but it still feels inspiring as it comes from these social outcasts.

cert pg themes, language, violence 7.Jun.22 slf


Turbo Cola  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Turbo Cola
dir Luke Covert
prd Brandon Keeton
scr Samantha Oty, Luke Covert, Matthew Kiskis
with Nicholas Stoesser, Jared Spears, Jordyn Denning, Landon Tavernier, Brooke Maroon, Anthony Notarile, Erin Nordseth, Erik Walker Neill, Michelle Hall, Brandon Keeton, Madeline Pickens, Anreet Kaur Riar
release US 17.Jun.22
22/US 1h35



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spears, stoesser and denning
A goofy charm infuses this teen caper comedy-drama, playing on the characters' sparky personalities. Adapted from a play by cowriter Samantha Oty, the film's tone swerves from silly to serious. It also digs knowingly into how it feels to be a young person at a pivotal point in life. So it's a bit frustrating that the story abandons its more adventurous elements for a simplistic but cool ending.
On New Year's Eve 1999, small-town Michigan high school senior Austin (Stoesser) plans to rob the ATM at the gas station shop where he works. With his goofy pal Swearsky (Spears), he plans a heist involving a Turbo Cola display. Then Austin's new girlfriend Mary Jane (Denning) stops by on her way to the big party, as does her bad-boy brother Jimmy (Tavernier), Austin's childhood friend, who has Y2K paranoia and a gun. And bully Eric (Notarile) and his pushy girlfriend Jennifer (Maroon) try to buy beer. Does Austin's plan have any chance of working?
Director-cowriter Covert keeps things moving, even if the film never kicks into high speed. From the start, it's clear that Swearsky will cause trouble, as he refuses to behave while the smiley Austin tries to keep things under control. Mary Jane is only the first distraction, and she returns a few more times to further spin Austin's head. Then the others turn up with their own disruptions as midnight approaches, including Austin's oddball mother (Nordseth), who wants him to visit his father in prison.

Performances are relaxed and realistic within the heightened narrative, which makes the characters feel more engaging than expected, especially as the story turns edgier. Stoesser anchors the film nicely as the quick-thinking Austin, who is trying to plot his own future while everyone around him has other ideas. Spears is able to subvert the chucklehead stereotype as Swearsky, while Denning cleverly makes Mary Jane more prickly than expected. And the teens played by Tavernier, Maroon and Notarile also nicely push back against cliches.

Instead of cutting loose with teen energy, the plot gets increasingly serious, with arguments and strained relationships that add tension between characters. So as the final act arrives, this feels much more like a darkly disturbing drama in which tragedy is the most likely outcome. Indeed, the stroke of midnight brings a ripple of repercussions to each of the story threads, leading to a climactic decision. And while there's strong resonance and some sharp observations in here, the film ultimately feels rather forgettable.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Jun.22


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