Robot & Frank

Robot & Frank

Set in Cold Spring, New York sometime in the near future, 70 yr old Frank (played by Frank Langella) is a retired cat burglar who detests the modern way of life. He lives alone, is long divorced and though he has two adult children, he isn’t very close to them partly because when they needed him most he was in prison having done long stretches for burglary.  The other part is because his son Hunter (James Marsden) lives  far away with his own family and is daughter (Liv Tyler) is a humanitarian who is working abroad. Through problems caused by his memory loss, his children are become increasingly concerned about their father’s health and are worried that he can no longer live independently.

Frank leads a simple old school life, walking into town most days to visit the soon to be reconstructed and modernised library, flirting with the beautiful head librarian (Susan Sarandon) and casually shoplifting from the local cosmetics store which used to be his favourite eatery. His evenings are spent with him trying to relive and/or recreate the glory days of his thieving ways.

Hunter becoming increasingly guilty that he can’t keep up his weekly commute to see his father  and initially wants to place Frank into a care home, as he constantly finds his dad living in squalor with his memory sadly rapidly deteriorating.  As Frank continues to stubbornly refuse he then instead opts to buy him a robot butler slash BFF, much to dad’s dismay.

The first few days with the robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard), Frank detests him. The robot is strict with Frank’s daily programme of exercise and health and constantly tries to motivate him for the better.  However when Frank realises that the robot isn’t programmed to abide by the law, he proves that he still has a few screws in place and sees its potential as a robotic felon and the two try their luck as a human and machine heist team.

This is a hugely impressive  directorial debut  for Jake Schreier  working alongside writer Christopher D. Ford. They’ve crafted a straight forward but light plot  and they didn’t shy away from heavier issues such as digital change, dementia and loneliness. The script indulges its cutesy oddities, but holds on to some powerful truths, particularly with regard to how we aim to weather the effects of ageing and with the help of the robot, it suggests that being active will keep you going.
There’s a poignant scene where Ford briefly examines robot politics, the notion that a machine does not appreciate its own “existence” because its so-called “memories” are merely lines of code and nothing else. Frank having become attached to the robot, struggles to come to terms with understanding this theory, and clearly rattled, terminates the conversation.

Peter Sarsgaard’s voice has never been more moving, and Robot becomes more than a necessary accomplice to Frank, he becomes a dear and reliable friend to a frail mind, in a world that becomes ever more confusing. It’s the strong underlying message about the changing times we live in that is the most piteous and thought-provoking.

See one of the things that I knew I would immediately like about this film from what I remembered of the of the trailers is that director Jake Schreier adhered to the KISS rule. (Keep It Simple Stupid). This film is a prime example of how keeping a plot simple with no crazy gimmicks or over acting but just powerful performances mean you have a recipe for an independent masterpiece. From mental health issues to friendships and parenthood Robot and Frank manages to be touching and honest without sacrificing it’s wealth of heart, humour and quick-wittedness. Lastly, I love how the robots name is just Robot. Even without a personal name, the affection however foreign just fits like hand to a glove.

Enjoy the trailer
A x

Director: Jake Schreier
Stars: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Peter Sarsgaard
Screenplay: Christopher D Ford
Runtime: 89mins
Cert: 12A

 
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