Synopsis: Set in the near future, an ex-jewel thief receives a gift from his son: a robot butler programmed to look after him. But soon the two companions try their luck as a heist team.
Ever wondered what would happen if the Hallmark Channel adapted an Issac Asimov story? Well wonder no more.
Robot & Frank is a beautiful and touching little movie that flew in under the radar earlier this year and by rights should have received far more attention than it did. Set ambiguously in the “near future”, the story focuses on the relationship between Frank (Frank Langella), an ageing cat burglar whose memory is fast suffering from the ravages of time, and a robot medical care assistant, simply called Robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard), thrust upon him by his son (James Marsden). At first reluctant to accept the truth about the obvious degradation of his cognitive functions, and any help that comes with it, Robot soon gives Frank a new lease of life to start committing heists once more.
Whilst Robot & Frank is a heartwarming look at growing old and the importance of memories, On Golden Pond With Robots it is not. Frank Langella is on a career best after his turn as Nixon in Frost/Nixon drawing out a genuine relationship with what is essentially a walking, talking ECG monitor. It benefits from no CGI, the physical role of the robot being done C3PO style with a human performance from Rachael Ma, giving Robot’s movements a distinctly human feel. Both are ably supported by a solid cast including a small and understated performance by Susan Sarandon as the local librarian and object of Frank’s affection.
The beauty of the script and direction is that Robot & Frank asks some huge philosophical questions about the importance of memory in defining our existence, our connections to the past and the possibilities of emotional connections with artificially sentient beings, with an incredible deftness of touch. It never feels slushy or preachy. It also had one of the most wonderfully understated final thirds of a movie I have seen in some time.
Conclusion: A gem of a find and a must watch for anyone who fears losing their marbles when they get older
Cast: Frank Langella, Peter Sarsgaard, Rachel Ma, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Susan Sarandon