LFF 2012: Robot & Frank | Film reviews, news & interviews
LFF 2012: Robot & Frank
Frank Langella forms an unlikely friendship in the delightful debut of Jake Schreier
Set in the near future on the outskirts of New York, Robot & Frank sees a grizzled ex-con warm to his mechanical helper, eventually enlisting him as a criminal accomplice. It might sound like the plot of a genre flick (Short Circuit springs to mind) but, like the robot in question, this little movie will knock you sideways with its soul. Boasting beautiful performances and ample humour, director Jake Schreier’s accomplished feature debut considers the preciousness and precariousness of memories – how they make us who we are, and indeed what it means to be alive.
Frank Langella plays our 70-something hero (and how refreshing that is!), a former cat burglar who has served two stretches inside. He’s a man out of sorts and nearly out of time – he’s grouchy and reclusive with a failing memory. When his son Hunter (James Marsden) buys him a robot helper (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) Frank is unimpressed, describing it as a “death machine” and complaining that “that thing is going to murder me in my sleep”. However, he begrudgingly tolerates its presence and Frank is delighted when he discovers Robot has no moral compass and that it can assist him in his return to crime.
Langella is simply wonderful here and there’s fine support from Marsden, Susan Sarandon (as Frank’s librarian love interest) and Liv Tyler as Frank’s daughter. But what really lifts the movie is the success of Robot and Frank as an odd couple - a relationship as consistently funny as it is touching. Robot & Frank is a skilfully crafted caper and it’s all the more moving for its modesty.
In the post-film Q&A, director Jake Schreier revealed that Langella and Peter Sarsgaard still haven’t met (Sarsgaard’s voice-work was inserted post-production), while Langella was on terrific form, joking that the experience was nothing new given that he’d “acted opposite a number of inanimate objects in my career.”
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Bourne to run (and run and run)
Julian Temple’s flawed Eighties bomb is finally revealed as film which can’t fail to dazzle
Heard but not seen: the Hollywood legend, who has died, tells the inside story of dubbing Natalie Wood in 'West Side Story'
A long-lost world comes stunningly alive again
Mark Rylance lends moments of the sublime to standard issue Spielberg
theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now
An ambitious, sparely told tale of 17th-century American terror
Jokes and derring-do in a galaxy far, far away
Greek masculinity is tested in wry, weird maritime comedy
Charlie Kaufman's remarkable animation sheds fresh light on the male midlife crisis
Evocative early-Seventies French drama of sexual discovery confronting traditional values
Adaptation of JG Ballard's dystopian thriller let down by surface brilliance