Robot & Frank is not your typical sci-film, there’s more to it than special effects. I hadn’t intended on watching it but, after seeing lots of trailers and promotion for the film, I was intrigued enough to go, and I’m glad I did.
Set in the near future Robot & Frank is the tale of an ageing man whose frustrated son decides that his infrequent support is no longer sufficient and gives his father a robot as a means of assistance. Initially horrified by the idea, Frank begrudgingly keeps the machine, only to discover that it has its advantages. Programmed to care for Frank the robot helps him to reconnect with the world and provides comfort in the form of a friend. As the story unfolds you begin to learn about the great life Frank led as a diamond thief when he realizes he can train the robot to become an accomplice in his crimes. However, all is not what it seems, Frank is suffering from the early stages of dementia, and there is a pivotal moment where you start to question everything we have learnt thus far about him.
The story is paralleled with the struggles of Susan Sarandon’s librarian who finds herself living in a world where books have become outmoded by digital media and not only the actual objects but herself too are treated like quaint relics. This makes for a nice metaphor of Frank’s life; he is no longer of importance to anyone, he is slowly fading at home whilst the world around him advances and his skills are forgotten. The film is also a comment on the impersonality of technology; it suggests we are isolating ourselves and losing sight of human relationships by allowing machines to ease our daily lives.
The older generation can be somewhat dismissed in the cinema, it’s rare to see a film where a lead character is an elderly man or woman – they don’t have the same glamour as their 20-year-old counterparts. But in the case of this film, thank goodness because instead, Frank Langella brings class. He gives a wonderful gently humoured performance as Frank; he’s extremely likeable and empathetic.
I really enjoyed the film and found it surprisingly moving. The trailer did it an injustice because it is so much more than a tale of a man and his robot. It is a powerful story about the strength of friendship and family bonds. It doesn’t take the easy path of a gentle heart-warming story of a man regaining his youthfulness and romance; there are shades of darkness in the characters and the family issues. Which makes it more touching because the problems of the characters are real. It’s worth taking the time to see it as it’s smart, funny and very touching.