Robot & Frank * * * *

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Director: Jake Schreier.
Screenplay: Christopher D. Ford.
Starring: Frank Langella, Peter Sarsgaard (voice), Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Jeremy Sisto, Jeremy Strong, Bonnie Bentley, Dario Barosso.

Robot & Frank” is the type of film that could, unfortunately, suffer a lot of preconceptions beforehand. Judging it by it’s cover or title, could lead to it being written off as some low-budget, ridiculous science-fiction film. If this does happen, then more fool those that do judge, as they’d be missing out on a marvellous human drama that has a great balance between humour and pathos.

In the near future, Frank is a retired cat burglar who lives alone, while his daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) is travelling the world and his son Hunter (James Marsden) is more focused on his career. Frank also happens to be going through the early stages of dementia, so in order to help him, Hunter buys him a robot caretaker, who will tend to his every need. Frank realises the potential in this, though, and plans to restart his old profession by using the robot as his aide to burgle more properties.

First off, this is a film about memories; the fading ones of it’s lead character and the expendable ones of an automaton. What makes it work, though, is the sensitive and convincing relationship at it’s core. There’s a genuine friendship that’s built between the characters and Christopher D. Ford’s screenplay takes time to touch upon the similarities between them. Robot is entirely reflective of Frank and they could be viewed as one and the same, while lightly skimming over the philosophical theories of Descartes’ cartesian doubt. Does the fact that Frank struggles to remember the past make him any less alive than the robot, who has no past? It’s this type of attention and delicate handling of the material that brings a genuine heart (and head) to the film. It’s an earnest portrait of Alzeihmer’s while also managing to incorporate some fun by it’s schematic caper sub-plot. It’s success is largely down to the strong and convincing actors; Langella delivers a fabulously nuanced performance of a man that once led a colourful life but now finds himself with a failing memory and refuses to accept it. He’s onscreen for almost the entirety of the movie, and throughout, he’s mostly talking to piece of tin. That piece of tin is also miraculously brought to life, though, with the gentle and perfectly fitting voice of Peter Sarsgaard. For this little character (who is never given a name) to win you over is a testament to everyone involved here. Director Jake Schreier handles the material beautifully – in his directorial debut – delivering a depth and profundity with touching family moments, memories reawakened and the importance of them in relation to what it means to be alive.

Although the film deals with a superficial automaton there’s a heart that lies within and that heart beats very strongly.
It’s early doors in 2013 but this is a film that I will fondly remember for the rest of the year and beyond.

Mark Walker

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42 Responses to “Robot & Frank * * * *”

  1. This came out here last year and I just missed it at the theater. I’m thrilled to see your rating though because we plan on watching it tonight. I love Frank Langella and I’m anxious to see him work here. Fun cast as well. Good stuff Mark!

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    • Great little film Keith. I’m eager to see what you have to say on it. If you enjoy it half as much as I did then you’re in for a little treat. Langella is superb in this, you shouldn’t be disappointed if you’re a fan of his.

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  2. I’ll be watching this sometime this week or weekend I hope. Another fine review sir.

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    • Thanks Chris. I really enjoyed this one. Strangely, I always expected that I would, despite not knowing very much about it beforehand. Hope you like it man. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for your post.

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  3. Good review Mark. The cast is what really makes this movie special and Langella won my heart over instantly. I didn’t love it, but it charmed and smoothed me over instantly.

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    • Much obliged Dan. The cast were absolutely brilliant. Especially Langella and Sarsgaard was the perfect choice for Robot. I really went along with it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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  4. I still needs to see this, looks great πŸ˜€

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  5. I’m watching the this week! Thanks for the review, Mark.

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    • Hope you like it Michael. I have a feeling you will. I’m busy as hell these days and struggle to catch everything that people write but if you post a review be sure to let me know. I’d like to hear your thoughts. Thanks my friend. πŸ™‚

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  6. I’ve got to see this one…

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  7. Great review Mark. I love the film too. You can check out my review here – http://cinekatz.com/robot-and-frank-alzheimers-thievery-and-technology-review/

    Although your review makes mine sound like child work.

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  8. Thanks for making me look up “the philosophical theories of Descartes’ cartesian doubt” must have skipped class that day πŸ˜‰

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    • Haha! I always find that Descartes philosophy features heavily in man vs machine premises Adam. Blade Runner was a big one for it. It’s only subtle in this film but it’s still there. It fascinates me that shit πŸ˜‰

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  9. Now i am questioning my reality

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  10. I was totally surprised by how good Robot and Frank was. It deserved a lot more press than it got. Excellent film and review sir.

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    • Hey thanks a lot Dusty. I too believe it deserves more recognition. I doubt it will go down too well in UK either but I really hope it does. Fantastic little film.

      By the way, I don’t believe I’ve came across your blog before. I mist remedy that as a thanks for dropping by mine. Cheers, man.

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  11. Loved this movie, it’s a world which you can imagine existing pretty soon and in the end this is really a movie about friendship, trust and passion.

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    • That’s what I loved too Nostra. It was subtle in it’s future setting and entirely believable. As was the relationship that they developed. Great little flick. I only hope more people check it out.

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  12. ray brayne Says:

    I’m for it tonight. If it’s no good, you and Fogs(belatedly) are to blame. Langella has disappointed me before(Starting out in the Evening). Descartes cartesian theory? Wow. Some deep shit there!

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    • Go for it Ray. It’s a great film. Admittedly, Descartes Cartesian doubt is only fleetingly approached but it’s definitely there and it had me constantly thinking and the relevance it had to it’s characters. Maybe I was delving too deep but that’s what I took from it anyway. Hope you enjoy it, man and it’s great to her from you again. Be sure to drop by with your thoughts on it.

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  13. Lovely review!! I’m so glad you like this Mark. I actually went to see this on the big screen as something about it appealed to me. You’re right it could be done badly but thankfully it wasn’t and the cast elevated it greatly. It’s quite hilarious in parts but also very heartwarming. I actually included this one in my Marriage in Film post a while back, so unexpected but definitely worth including.

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    • Thanks Ruth. I found a lot of humour as well. Obviously, I don’t want to give spoilers away but I found the denouement to be very bitter-sweet. That being said, it was perfectly wrapped up but I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. For a film to achieve this is praise alone. I absolutely loved this one.

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      • Yes, the denouement is so very subtle but very sweet indeed. I actually teared up in that scene. It all made sense somehow, all the little details peppered throughout in a clever way. Langella and Sarandon are superb, nice to see James Marsden in a small but important role.

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      • That’s exactly it. It did all make sense. Heartbreakingly so but also… perfect. Langella manages to convey so much with just a look. Everyone was great here but Langella was particularly superb and I really enjoyed the use of Sarsgaard’s voice.

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  14. excellent post, Mark! I love your last paragraph – great wrap up πŸ™‚ So you and Fogs have given it great reviews, i’ll have to check it out!

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  15. Victor De Leon Says:

    I just picked this up. Can’t wait to check it out. I love Langella. Thanks Mark!

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  16. Yes, yes, yes, I’ve been wanting to see this! So glad it sounds as good as it looked in the trailers.

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  17. Great review Mark. This wasn’t released anywhere near me sadly as I wanted to check it out, so I’ll be waiting for the Blu. Definitely interested in seeing it though. And it has Liv Tyler in it, so sign me up!

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    • Great little film Chris. To be honest, Liv Tyler doesn’t feature all that much. It’s Langella’s game all the way and he’s brilliant. Hope you catch it soon man. Its worth it.

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  18. ray brayne Says:

    Thought I’d come back with some thoughts. SPOILERS. Guess I need that to discuss this.
    I loved the way the library figured into this. Eliminating the books was, to Frank, erasing memories. Something Frank was going to fight until the end. Memories and the mind, storehouse of memories, is thematic here.
    The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.”
    Rene Descartes
    There’s a word from your boy. Frank’s so against memories end that he won’t erase the Robot’s, even if it means jail if he doesn’t.
    It’s a painful scene when he finally does.
    It was quite chilling when Frank realizes he had forgotten his wife. But that’s Alzeihmers, something I felt too lightly touched here.
    Did the Robot exist with his memory gone. Did Frank. The last shot of the Robot’s tomatoes growing over the fruit of Frank’s labor, says it all.
    Good Pic this. Nice find.

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    • *SPOILER*

      Good catch on the library one Ray, I never vectored that in but that makes complete sense. Nice one, man.

      I caught the other stuff… Frank’s reluctance to erase the robots memory. I didn’t know how to mention this in my review without spoilers so I just mentioned that they are very alike, in some ways, one and the same. Again, that’s where Descartes comes in.. “I think therefore I am”. Without their memories they have no idea who they really are. In essence they’ve ceased to exist.
      The scene were he remembers his wife was absolutely beautiful yet heartbreaking. Very well played too.

      Thanks for your thoughts on this one Ray. I always enjoy your analysis. πŸ™‚

      Like

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