Life in your elderly years.. Often portrayed as yourself eventually carving an isolated figure. In a world where technology is ever present and advancing, the generously aged reluctantly counter this with the effectiveness of their physical and mental diminishing, becoming ‘forgotten’ commodities of society. Jack Shrerier in his directorial debut, provides a potential glimpse into the future where a machine’s duties are to cater to the needs of such a demographic. Imagine a grounded hybrid of Disney/Pixar’s Up and Wall-E.. with added obscenities.
Almost oblivious to his decreasing quality of life, Frank is riddled with early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. Struggling to adjust to the modern way of life with his notorious criminal past often frowned upon, he is often restricted to taking comfort in visiting his local library and striking up conversation with the last human librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon). In a desperate attempt to help his plight as well as his own, Frank’s accomplished son Hunter played by James Marsden makes the grand purchase of a sophisticated robot ‘butler’ (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard).
Prompting dismay from his globe trotting daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) as well as himself, Frank declares the machine will ‘kill him in his sleep’. Whilst initially bemused by the ‘bot’s monotonous tone and insistence on a schedule and strict diet, they soon strike up an unlikely friendship. Recognising his capabilities as well as his emotional limitations, Frank deems it the perfect opportunity to use the ‘gift’ to his advantage and attempt a heist..
Compared to the usual barrage of futuristic depictions that are heavily reliant on their aesthetically grim nature, ‘Robot and Frank’ opts for the understated and immediately plausible approach. Director Schreier’s steady and assured direction, mirrors the blossoming Frank/Robot dynamic whilst raising questions on the human condition. As we grow increasingly cynical as a species, can we really rely and ‘connect’ on an emotional level with such creations? The themes of aging and loneliness may on the surface have ‘soap opera’ like tendencies, but here are swiftly integrated and dissected in graceful fashion.
Injecting razor sharp wit and tenderness into his morally ‘corrupt’ demeanour, Frank Langella provides a committed and truly wonderful performance as our lead protagonist Frank. Refusing to let the ‘machine’ clan down, Peter Sarsgaard deserves much recognition in effectively aiding the film’s humourous intentions. Whilst minor in their screen time, Susan Sarandon and James Marsden’s competent turns as Hunter and Jennifer eventually are given a chance to flourish as the film builds towards its beautiful finale.
Low key and modest in scale. Downright greedy in its sheer heart and poignancy. ‘Robot and Frank’ is the cinematic equivalent of a ‘hug’, which you’ll likely find irresistable not to fall into the arms of.