Monday, August 20, 2012


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.


Anonymous said...

Wow. A shame you missed the actual premise of this film.
As Frank's memory diminishes and the robot takes on more of his characteristics, the question of its indifference to its memory versus the bleak reality that this mechanical mirror is his only friend speaks multitudes about change and progress ultimately making everything preceding irrelevant, including us as individuals.
Nonetheless, I suppose your cutesy summation will appease the low-brow audience. Kudos!

Black Sheep said...

Wow, indeed. I'm sorry you feel that I missed the point of the film, but I didn't see it the way you did. And unless you're the writer or director of ROBOT AND FRANK, I don't see how your interpretation is any more valid than mine. What you put forth is an intriguing concept but I didn't feel that the robot did take on Frank's characteristics, nor did I feel the film was as bleak as you paint it.

No matter though; I find it difficult to take you even remotely seriously when you finish your case with an insult not only to my writing, but my readers' intelligence as well.

Anonymous said...

Joseph Belanger: It's not a question of interpretation and feeling; it's a question of being able to read a film at even a rudimentary level. Your glib assessment of superficial aspects is an insult to filmmakers that put years of work into telling a story. There's something very "Chatelaine" about your writing and your limited knowledge-base. It's nice that you're a nice person that likes to be nice, but it doesn't make you a good reviewer.

Black Sheep said...

Perhaps the way I read films, or at the very least this particular film, may seem rudimentary to you, but I know I'm a good film reviewer. My experience and reputation in the industry speak to that already. I have occasion to meet and speak with filmmakers all the time, most of whom find our conversations about their films go far beyond the surface.

Film is most certainly about interpretation and feeling. The act of watching film is inherently subjective. Film is nothing without the involvement of the viewer and if you don't care for the way I interact with film, then I'm just not the reviewer for you. And quite frankly, I'd sooner stick with the readers I already have.

Elle Diabloe said...

It always amazes me how such opinionated people can hide behind a veil of anonymity and spew negativity with impunity. If you are so proud of your opinion, then please share your identity or at least your credentials with the other readers of Black Sheep reviews. At least then the rest of us can decide if you are simply a douche or a douche who's opinion deserves some contemplation.

Anonymous said...

I loved this film and I think it deserves a bit more credit than you give it.

The part where Frank has to wipe the robots memory knowing that he's effectively wiping his own. I haven't seen a character have to make a choice like that in a film for a long time.

I thought the wife twist was played subtly and excellently.

The acting all round was brilliant... not forgetting the robots contribution either.