ROBOT AND FRANK
Written by Christopher D. Ford
Directed by Jake Schreier
Starring Frank Langella, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Susan Sarandon and Peter Sarsgaard
Robot: Hi Frank. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Frank: How do you know?
As I understand it, aging can be an isolating and confusing time for many, especially when it seems that life has forgotten you and left you to finish out your years alone. When you are retired from work and your family has moved on to families of their own, purpose can be difficult to find. Frank (played by Frank Langella) knows this better than most. He was once a loving husband and father to two vibrant children. He was also once a jewel thief but even jewel thieves eventually get too old to break into homes in the middle of the night. Fortunately, loneliness, one of mankind’s oldest afflictions, has finally found a solution thanks to the unlikeliest of places - modern technology.
ROBOT AND FRANK, the directorial debut by Jake Schreier, takes place in what appears to be the not-so-distant future. Life is pretty much recognizable in Frank’s world but slight differences pop up here and there so we know it isn’t quite the world you and I know today. The biggest of these tiny nuances would definitely have to be the robots. Frank has just gotten his from his son (James Marsden) to assist with his daily needs. Living all on his own, Frank neglects to clean up after himself or eat properly. The robot, voiced with tranquility and patience by Peter Sarsgaard, is not only there so that his son doesn’t have to make the long trek up from the city each week to make sure Frank is taking care of himself, but also to keep Frank company. Naturally, Frank resists the robot at first, but once he sees how the robot can help him get back to his thieving ways, the two become fast friends.
At the end of the day, a robot is incapable of being someone’s friend but Frank will take what he can get. The people in his life, including his daughter (Liv Tyler) and a librarian in town (Susan Sarandon) do what they can for him, but they all have their own lives too. And as Frank loses a little more of his memory with each day, he learns to rely more and more on the robot, blurring the lines between reality and artificial intelligence. ROBOT AND FRANK is a little movie with big ideas, led by yet another endearing and layered performance by Langella, an actor who constantly disproves the idea that there aren’t any good parts for older actors. And while the film may not be revelatory on any level, it has plenty of charm to please the viewer. In the end , I learned that we can all get by with a little help from a friend, even if that friend is made of metal.