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.”
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