Directed by Lee Bolton
Starring Lindsay Bennett, Christopher Faith and Lucas Smith
Short Film Review by Annie Vincent
A tribute to his late mother, Charlie and Me follows a pilot, lost in space and her yearning to be back with her son Charlie, on Earth. Without power, guidance systems or thrusters, she is left with little to do except to reflect on her life and respond to the chiming of the small life-support pack in the space-pod, who comes to remind her of her son.
Whilst the premise of Charlie and Me is touching and the performance by Lindsay Bennett supportive in this endeavour, plot and developed characterisation are lacking and as a result, audiences will struggle to invest in this film.
The main issue is the script which has delivered us a female protagonist, lost in space, but with no explanation about why she is there. In her darkest moments, she speaks to Charlie as if he were there, telling him she would never have left if she didn’t have to. So why did she have to? Similarly, we have no idea why she is now lost in space. There is an indication that she has been hurt and the pod she’s travelling in, damaged. How and why: we don’t know. The pod’s automated message system keeps telling her that she will be rescued, but by whom, we are left to wonder.
Other elements of the plot of Charlie and Me contribute to this lack of believability, including the power suddenly coming back on in the pod and veering her on to the right trajectory course, before shutting off again. And the relationship between our pilot and the metal box in the pod with her is seriously lacking in development. Within minutes of waking up she is attempting to play cards with it, telling it she is reminded of her son Charlie when it chimes. If the writer was aiming for a reboot of Tom Hanks’ relationship with Wilson the football, in Castaway, he has missed the mark somewhat, but only because not enough time has been given to developing this relationship.
Lindsay Bennett manages to rescue the film in places. Whilst the script is hollow, she does her best to capture a mother’s grief and there are moments where we could be absorbed in her despair, if we weren’t already distracted by the plot holes. Similarly, some of the camerawork, particularly in the ‘pod’ scenes is excellent, with use of light and shadow effective and believable in capturing the pod’s movement through space. In places, the special effects take a turn back to the 1970s as a clunky, Star-Trekian-pod moves towards a computer animation of the Northern Lights and the pulsey, breathy, sci-fi soundtrack only strengthens this association.
This is incongruous with the emotional journey we are meant to be experiencing with the protagonist and it may have been prudent to choose a genre and stick with it. There is a place for retro-space films with quirky relationships between man and machine, but layering over that with an exploration of a mother’s regret is unsettling and the audience is left unsure of how to respond.