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Movie Review: Robot & Frank

August 31, 2012

Robot & Frank – A Sony Pictures’ Release

Release Date: August 24th, 2012

Rated PG for language and mature themes

Running time: 89 minutes

Jake Schreier (dir.)

Christopher D. Ford (writer)

Francis and the Lights (music)

Frank Langella as Frank

Peter Sarsgaard as Robot (voice)

James Marsden as Hunter

Liv Tyler as Madison

Susan Sarandon as Jennifer

Jeremy Strong as Jake

Bonnie Bentley as Ava

Jeremy Sisto as Sheriff Rowlings

©Sony Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Frank (Frank Langella) and his robot in Robot & Frank.

Our reviews below:


Robot & Frank Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Taking place in the near future, Robot & Frank tells the story of Frank (Frank Langella), a former jewel thief whose memory is starting to elude him.  He spends his days wandering into the local library and spending time with employee Jennifer (Susan Sarandon), before stealing soap sculptures from the small shop next store.  Worried that his father is no longer able to take care of himself, Frank’s son Hunter (James Marsden) buys him a personal care robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard).  The robot is programmed to cook him meals and clean up around the house, but Frank still has enough of his memory to know that a machine can’t control him, and he starts to train him as a partner in crime for one last job.

The film is carried by an excellent performance from Frank Langella.  The veteran actor is nothing short of brilliant in the leading role, at turns both humorous and heartbreaking as his character becomes tragically more forgetful as the film goes on.  His onscreen chemistry with the titular machine is both delightful and mesmerizing to watch, allowing us to really feel the bond that forms between the human and the robot.  Peter Sarsgaard’s voice as the oddly relatable robot is a perfect match, recalling the cold sound of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Watch the end credits for a cool demonstration of the actual healthcare robots currently being developed in Japan.

There are several small twists in the last act that bring a deeply felt emotional resonance to the story.  Both in tone and style, Robot & Frank is a refreshingly mature film that manages to be both entertaining and bittersweet, sometimes in practically the same scene.  This is a small independent gem that deserves to find a big audience.


Robot & Frank Review by Erin V.  

**** (out of 4)

Robot & Frank is set in a distant future, where there are robotic helpers for daily tasks.  We don’t need to know exactly when, and the premise is easy to accept with the technology of the bots not too far off from what is in labs nowadays.

In his youth, Frank (Frank Langella) was a cat burglar, but now he has trouble remembering where he is and what year he is in.  Determined he doesn’t need to move into the nursing home as urged by his two children Hunter (James Marsden) and Madeline (Liv Tyler), Hunter finally makes the compromise that should Frank continue living on his own, he must agree to have a robot stay with him.  At first Frank resists, but over time he starts to rely on the robot, and realizes that without human morals, it might even enable him to pull off one last heist…  But more importantly, it becomes someone to talk to and remind him of what he’s said as his memory continues to fail him.

The film is very simple, but very touching and sweet.  Much like a film like Real Steel, the robots take on a personality even though we know they are just robots.  The robots in Robot & Frank do act on their own and aren’t controlled by remotes, but as the robots themselves keep on reminding the humans, they are not human.  But, we still don’t cease to care even as they say this because it is so easy to humanize something that interacts as the robot here does.

By the end, with a few twists and turns that we don’t quite see coming, the robot has taken on something that means so much more and humanizes it through Frank.  It is touching, sweet, and at times a little sad as the film becomes one about aging and dealing with change both internal and around us.  This is one of the best films about Alzheimer’s in that it isn’t melodramatic and is told from the perspective of the one losing their memories.  In that case, it is sometimes hard to tell just how much is lost to Frank until nearer to the end.

Despite the colourful poster with the cute robot, this is not a kids movie.  It is very slow-paced (with really nothing to engage a kid), and there is mild language.  For adults though it’s more than worth seeing – this is a touching gem of a film that is anchored by a strong performance by Frank Langella, who often acting against only the robot shows us so much of the character of Frank.  It is beautiful and worth seeing – the film is in limited release in theatres right now, so check your local listings and see if you can seek it out.


Robot & Frank Review by Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Set in the near future, Robot & Frank tells a quirky and bittersweet tale about aging.  Frank (Frank Langella) is a grumpy old man whose memory is eluding him.  His son Hunter (James Marsden) decides that Frank needs extra help, so he drops off a healthcare robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) to make sure that Frank stays on track.  While he is initially annoyed by the robot, who insists that Frank eat a healthy diet, the robot begins to grow on him.

The one thing Frank does remember is his cat burgling heyday.  This gives him the idea to use the robot as a partner in crime.  The pair set off to burgle the rich and snobby neighbour, Jake (Jeremy Strong) who plans on trading the library’s books for electronic ones.  The library means a lot to Frank, as does Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) the librarian, for reasons he can’t remember.

Robot & Frank has a lot of heart.  The conversations between Frank and his robot are quite funny.  The film takes a bittersweet and believable turn in the end.  Anyone who has seen this kind of aging first hand will be especially moved by the film.  Charming and clever, Robot & Frank is one of the most human films of the year.  Be sure to stay through the end credits, which displays real healthcare robot prototypes being currently developed.


Robot & Frank Review by Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Robot & Frank is a touching, low-key comedy about aging and an unusual friendship.  Frank (Frank Langella) is an ex-jewel thief and at 70 years old, no longer as sharp as he used to be.  His kids, Hunter (James Marsden) and Madison (Liv Tyler) are concerned that dad is becoming increasingly forgetful and maybe shouldn’t be living alone.  So Hunter does what a good son in the near future would do.  He brings in a healthcare/domestic support robot to help around the house and look after their dad.

Robot is an absolute delight.  Voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, it’s easy to forget that this efficient and very polite machine is not a person.  Programmed to respond in whatever way best enhances Frank’s physical and mental health, Robot encourages Frank’s hobby of picking locks and pocketing items.  Motivated by the chance to impress the local librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarrandon), Frank decides to make a statement of sorts about the old library closing down.  The helpful robot is with him every step of the way.

As the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that Frank is dealing with increasing memory loss.  There are several touching scenes as he realizes his own confusion and recognizes how much he counts on Robot to be his external memory.  Frank Langella does a wonderful job as a man whose world is changing and forms a special bond with an unusual friend.  The friendship between Frank and Robot feels real.

Robot & Frank is charming.  It deals with the subject of memory loss and Alzheimer’s in a respectful and gently comedic manner.  This is a wonderful, quiet movie to wrap up the summer season.


Robot & Frank Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Robot & Frank is set in the near future with humanoid robots used as personal care workers, not only for household chores but also to provide the proper diet and stimulation for a quality lifestyle. Frank (Frank Langella) is not coping well on his own as his memory fails him. Having found the weekly five hour drive to Frank’s small town NY home increasingly frustrating, his son Hunter (James Marsden) brings him a support robot. At first Frank is reluctant to use it, a feeling shared by his globetrotting robot rights activist daughter Madison (Liv Tyler).

Soon however, Frank finds the robot useful, not only for everyday support but as a quick study in Frank’s former trade–cat burglary. One joy Frank has never given up is visiting the local library and flirting with the librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon). When the conspicuously wealthy and arrogant consultant Jake (Jeremy Strong) sweeps into town to digitize and destroy the library’s circulating collection and is patronizing to Frank, one last score is the only way Frank knows to set things right.

In just 89 minutes, first time feature director Jake Schreier has given us a sensitive, very amusing and even suspenseful look into the life of a man coping with severe memory loss, with a really nice twist at the end. The cast is all excellent, including Peter Sarsgaard’s flat robot voice not unlike Canadian actor Douglas Rain’s HAL in 2001. The fine musical score mixes classical and electronic themes from the director’s former band Francis and the Lights.


Consensus: With an intriguing and unique story set in the near future, Robot & Frank is a quiet and refreshingly mature film about aging that is anchored by a brilliant leading performance from Frank Langella.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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