Jake Schreier (director)
Park Pictures (studio)
08 March 2013 (released)
04 March 2013
In a unique spin on artificial intelligence, Robot & Frank tells the story of Frank (Frank Langella) who is battling old age and the onset of dementia in typically grumpy fashion. His grown up children played by James Marsden and Liv Tyler decide to buy him the latest thing in pensioner assistance, a Robot butler, voiced magnificently by Peter Sarsgaard. Frank is not entirely happy with this situation and after much persuasion allows the machine to serve him food, clean the house and accompany him on his regular visits to see librarian Susan Sarandon, who also has a more basic version working in the library with her.
Frank, we discover, has a criminal past which soon comes into play when he learns that his Robot is programmed without morals and goes about devising a heist with his new computerised buddy. This interesting plot device is just one of the many highly enjoyable things about Jake Schreier’s lovable movie. It is well shot and the acting is superb, especially Langella who gives Frank a grouchy humour and a tender sadness. There are very funny scenes combined with tense set pieces and excellent characterisation, as well as a real tearjerker of a scene which is unexpected and extremely touching.
Most films that ply this topic fall foul of either sci-fi nonsense (I, Robot) or unnecessary sentiment (AI) but this cracker tells a simple story which asks as many questions as it answers about the role of robotics in our society. Many will think that this situation is very much set in the future but as the closing credits roll, real images of artificial hands being controlled by the mind appear and add another element to this not so tall tale.