In director Jake Schreier’s Robot and Frank, the answer stresses that technology has the opportunity to be as engaging as it is useful. The film centers around an elderly cat burglar named Frank (Frank Langella), who finds himself disturbed at the technology the “not-so-distant future” this world provides which forces an old fashioned library to become renovated into a high-tech experience for the cultural elite.
The combination of his old robbery habits, however, dying hard and his estranged son Hunter (James Marsden) wishing he could spend more time with his own children gives Frank an ultimatum: get his own memory cleaned or allow a helper Robot (Peter Sarsgaard [voice]) take care of him in his place.
Initially, he reluctantly lets the Robot help him out with doing his chores and organizing his daily schedule. But when Frank discovers that he could find a way to have the Robot help him steal from the library and it’s new owner, he connects with the Robot on an emotional level.
What brings out the film’s greatness is how unusual the friendship is between a human and a robot is in the technological future. And yet somehow writer Christopher D. Ford manages to give it such a natural feel. Langella puts some emotional depth into the stubborn, sharp-witted Frank, and the rest of the cast aren’t pushovers either. With Marsden, Liv Tyler (Frank’s daughter who disagrees with cybernetic appliances), and Susan Sarandon (a librarian who grows close to Frank), the cast shows off a great display of talent.
As strange as it sounds, the Robot gives one of the best performances in the film with a combination of Sarsgaard’s comforting voice, and a script that gives the Robot a clever personality that meshes and conflicts with Frank’s fussy demeanor. The way the two have conversations and get to know one another is so endearing that it’s difficult to imagine them apart as the town’s officers begin to suspect Frank of continuing his hobby of burglary.
Robot and Frank is a unique film that blends comedy and drama with science fiction to show how technology can work with and against humanity. The cast fits their roles perfectly, the music in particular is an unusual treat with indie group Francis and the Lights adding electronic ambiance to the score. The script does wonders when it comes to making the friendship between the Robot and Frank funny yet touching.
Truly a film you shouldn’t miss out on.
A – Classic
B – Excellent
C – Okay
D – Poor
F – Forget it