‘Friendship doesn’t have an off switch’ is the tag line for this surprisingly touching heart warmer. A science-fiction set in the near future, ‘Robot and Frank’ is the story of Frank; an ageing jewel thief who fondly remembers the criminal escapades of his youth, yet often forgets his glasses. Although Frank insists he’s fine, his son and daughter worry as his memory loss gets progressively worse and threatens the oncoming of dementia, so, Frank’s given the latest in tech; a humanoid robot programmed to take care of Frank’s physical and mental wellbeing. At first, the cantankerous Frank is reluctant to take on the robot, though after finding that the robot can be trained for certain special tasks (lock-picking, for example), he grows a lot fonder.
‘Robot and Frank’ is a science fiction, and as in a lot of science fiction movies, the robot hints at developing thoughts and feelings of his own, at one point quoting Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’. A robot becoming more human-like is often a source of creepiness and threat (‘Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop Dave?’), but here, the robots independence turns out to be very funny. The dialogue between Frank and his robot is very engaging, and sure to make you smile rather than grimace.
‘Robot and Frank’ could have easily tipped into over sentimentality, or considering its outlandish premise, outright silliness or unintentional creepiness; but instead, it treads a delicate line never overstepping its mark. It keeps a low-key and grounded tone; a fantasy without too much of the fantastical. Occasionally the film threatens into some farcical and unlikely moments, but the performances of Frank Langella as Frank and Peter Sarsgaard as the dead toned voice of the robot are compelling enough to keep those moments from going over the top, and becoming distracting.
‘Robot and Frank’ is a surprising take on a classic formula, with plenty in it to keep you in your seat. It may not be ground-breaking or truly original, but its hour and a half running time, great performances, and genuinely funny moments serve to make this one worth catching.
‘Robot and Frank’ is showing until the 14th of March at Rich Mix Cinema.
Click here for details.