Robot and Frank is a delightful film set in the near future, close enough to the present to be familiar but far enough that gadgetry, especially robot technology, is highly advanced. It tells the story of Frank (Frank Langella), a retired jewel thief who now lives alone in a rural area. He specialized in robbing from very rich people and has served time in jail in the past.
He is suffering from early stages of dementia, forgetting some things big and small and having no interests other than to borrow books from the local small library where he has a crush on the librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon). His deteriorating mental condition worries his two children, one of whom travels the globe for her work and the other who lives five hours away and has his own family and work and thus cannot keep as close an eye on his father as he would like. He refuses to go to an assisted living facility so his son obtains a talking humanoid robot that is capable of cooking, gardening, cleaning, monitoring Frank’s health, and insisting on him maintaining a daily routine with exercise.
Frank wishes his children would leave him alone and initially hates the quietly bossy robot and tries to be rid of it. His attitude changes when he discovers that the robot has not been programmed to have an aversion to crime and he decides that the robot would be a perfect accomplice and teaches him the arts of lock picking and safe cracking. His goal is to steal the jewels of an obnoxious rich yuppie couple that has moved in nearby, hired in order to transform the library by digitizing all his beloved books and transforming the building into a community center. The planning and execution of this heist with his newfound buddy the robot rejuvenates him and gives him new purpose in life.
This film is a light comedy that also deals touchingly with the effects of dementia, contrasting Frank’s slow loss of memory with a robot that forgets nothing but whose memory can be erased with a single switch. The developing relationship between Frank and the robot is fun to watch, Langella is marvelous in his role and Sarandon is always terrific. It is a treat to watch two highly skilled veterans at work, though this film is mainly Langella’s and his interactions with robot (voiced nicely by Peter Sarsgaard). I found myself laughing out loud on occasion and realized that it was not because the lines themselves were all that funny but because Langella had perfect timing, coupled with just the right expressions, to achieve the comedic effect.
The film is worth checking out. Here’s the trailer.