Some films are small but have big hearts and this is one of those.
Robot & Frank is set in the near future. Frank (Frank Langella) is a retired burglar who now lives alone. He’s suffering from the onset of dementia, but he’s in denial, to the frustration of his son Hunter (James Marsden) and daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) who have their own lives to lead.
Against Frank’s wishes, his son buys a walking talking humanoid robot to help around the house, preparing meals, essentially fulfilling a carer role. Robot: Hello, Frank, it’s a pleasure to meet you. To which Frank replies, How do you know?
The robot attempts to improve Frank’s lifestyle, by by getting him to eat healthier food and going on walks.
Robot: Frank, that cereal is for children. Eat this grapefruit.
Frank: You’re for children, stupid.
The voice of the robot is Peter Sarsgaard, exuding patience and solicitude regarding curmudgeonly Frank; he also has some of the best lines. Yet this undoubtedly Langella’s film, though he is ably supported by the rest of the cast. Langella performs a master class in conveying his character’s confusion, stubbornness, and compassion. Susan Sarandon underplays Frank’s only friend, a librarian. There are plenty of amusing scenes and lines, including the interchange between Frank’s robot and the robotic library assistant, Mr Darcy.
At the heart of the story is the growing friendship between the robot and Frank, especially when Frank realises that he can utilise the robot’s unique abilities to perform another heist.
There’s a poignant twist, too, which alters much that we thought we knew.
The film deals with dementia in a non-sentimental but honest way.
Paradoxically, the friendship between man and machine extols humanity.
A moving, thought-provoking little gem.
Released 2012, 89 minutes