VOD film review: Robot & Frank
Ivan Radford | On 16, Jul 2013
Director: Jake Schreier
Cast: Frank Langella, Peter Sarsgasrd, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler
Watch Robot & Frank online in the UK: Amazon Prime / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“That thing’s gonna murder me in my sleep.”
That’s Frank (Langella) after meeting his robot, Robot. Frank, you see, is not a nice old man. He may be losing his marbles, but he’s not letting them go lightly. As for Robot, well, he’s a robot. What’s amazing about Jake Schreier’s movie is just how much it makes you care about both of them.
Is it the fact that helper robots for the elderly are already a thing in real life? Is it because Robot is a clunky creation played by a man in a suit, instead of a soulless bit of CGI? Is it that Frank Langella is so good at being a befuddled bastard that it’s hard not to love him?
Impressively for a film by a first-time writer/director, it’s a bit of each. Incorporating subtle slices of sci-fi into its lo-fi scenario, Shreier’s production design is impeccable – from the local library undergoing an upgrade (complete with ageing librarian Susan Sarandon) to the see-through smartphones. The realistic near-future setting makes that human-robot bond even more believable.
But, crucially, Robot & Frank does it all without a trace of saccharine. In another director’s hands, things could become overbearing and mawkish; here, the central relationship is played for laughs more than tears. What does Frank do when he gets his robot? Not gardening, oh no. He teaches his mechanical mate how to pick locks and crack safes. And then takes him on a jewel heist.
Voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, Robot’s sterile politeness is spot-on, while the hilariously deadpan Langella projects a whole raft of emotions onto the inanimate object. Allow a contrived ending and the result is a smart, sweet look at ageing, memory, death – and robots – that isn’t afraid to be very, very silly. Which somehow only makes it more endearingly sincere. Adorable stuff.
Robot & Frank is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.