Robot & Frank
There is no shortage of films that ask questions about what a society with robots will look like, and film-goers and, indeed, sociologists should happily welcome this creation to the list. Robot & Frank has already been critically acclaimed by the critics in America, including winning a prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and is soon to make its way to British screens.
Frank (Frank Langella) is an aged jewel thief, who has hung up his ‘business’ to live a sedate life in the country outside a small town. Such a life, however, is leading to a loss of his memory by an identified disease (Alzheimer’s or dementia), and his son, exasperated by the fragile temper of his father, buys Frank a robot. Initially angered by the intrusion, Frank becomes use to his companion and even takes the robot on as a lock-pick protégé, before returning with zest to his life of crime.
The film is directed by Jake Schreier. This is his first feature, and he’s certainly kicking off his career at a fast pace! Brits will note there is nothing un-American about this film. Its glossy and the characters are slick and sentimental. The cast is incredible. Frank Langella is wittily suave, Susan Sarandon plays the endearing love-interest, and Liv Tyler as Madison is exceptionally funny as Frank’s wistful, yet impractical daughter.
However, James Marsden is disappointing as Frank’s son Hunter, played the role somewhat awkwardly, although this is perhaps due to the forced nature of the character. This issue belies really the only major complaint that can be made about this film, that the characters, despite ostensibly having a very intimate history, are so profoundly different that they often clash.
The strengths of the film, however, are numerous. Even if the cast clashes, individually there are no slip-ups (although some might find the quintessential American melodrama a tad overbearing). Frank Langella is a particular delight and he moves from devilish charm to joyous scheming with imperceptible ease. His relationship with the robot, which could have been an incredible hash given the somewhat hackney nature of the theme, was done artfully and with new perspective, including nuances of mystery that stretch throughout the film. The screenwriter also kept his hands clean of clichéd references to the future, and reserved the date to a simple “in the near future”, and the odd intriguing car now and again.
With an exceptional cast and attention-grabbing storyline, this is certainly a fine entry to the robo-sociology genre of films (Bicentennial Man, Bladerunner and iRobot). The score (Frankie and the Lights) is easygoing and apt, and the sets and scenes are done with a light touch, never compromising the focus of the film. Frank and his Robot is a sturdy, heart-warming but clever film that entertains with ease.
Robot & Frank is released in the UK on 8th March 2013.
Watch the trailer for Robot & Frank here: