Robotics and the elderly are two things that, experience has proven, don’t often go well together, both on and off screen. Yet, offbeat sci-fi buddy caper Robot & Frank presents us with just that, the unusual pairing of a semi-retired cat burglar suffering from dementia and, his partner in crime (and BFF), a state-of-the-art robot butler named… robot. The film divides its attention into being a part buddy movie, part crime caper and part dementia drama, with much success. Think Wall-E meets Driving Miss Daisy.
Moving but not manipulative, Frank Langella gives an expected glinting and cranky charmed performance as the lead. The 75-year-old veteran actor manages to hold the entire 90 minute film ransom with his incredible acting presence, overshadowing a supporting cast that includes the likes of Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler and Jeremy Strong. The chief pleasures, however, are found in Frank’s interactions with the 80s-like robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). Their offbeat relationship makes for good cinema.
Set in the not so distant future, Frank, a retired divorcee suffering from dementia, is given the choice between being shipped off to an old age home or accepting his son’s gift of a robot butler. Much to his annoyance, the robot begins to cook, clean and monitor Frank’s failing health – providing a strict routine for him to follow. Of course, Frank is initially opposed to the idea of needing assistance, but soon discovers certain flaws in the robots programming. Soon Frank recruits the robot as his accomplice as he plans out a big heist. Their targets are a local library and the home of an annoying software mogul.
First time director Jake Schreier creates a charming and inviting world in Frank & Robot – light on cheese but heavy on sentimentality. The situations are often funny without being overly forceful and the ending is full of twists and turns. Enjoyable!