Film Reviews and Discussion.
Dir: Jake Schreier
Duration: 130 mins
The shape of things to come? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for the new millennia? A meditation on old age, dependency and vitality from first time feature-length director. With added crime.
In light of the number of well-received films aimed at the market marked ‘the grey pound/dollar’, Robot and Frank arrives with the USP of throwing a bit of rollicking sci-fi into the septuagenarian mix.
Set in the not too distant future, and behaving like a heist version of Spielberg’s Minority Report-meets-Kubrick’s-2001, this romp features Frank, a retired burglar who is forced to enjoy a more pastoral life by his increasingly distracted children. He lives alone, after the passing of his wife. He is staring into the abyss of old age and is not happy about it. His son, seemingly adrift in a cacophonous world of self-involvement, provides a gift for his father in the form of a robot.
Initially reluctant and truculent, he views this mechanical intruder as a nemesis. After a series of conversations, however, this will all change and the robot’s biggest detractor will evolve into its biggest fan.
On the surface, there are enough gentle laughs to make light of the 130 minute running time. Scratch gently at this coating and you will also find plenty of hefty material to sate those disposed to a more substantial appetite. Aside from the obvious metaphors for companionship, there are interesting discourses on the contradictory illusion of memory and the destruction caused by the rumbling traction of time. Also, there is the open-ended question of morality through disassociation.
To dwell on any of this further within this page would be to bore with an academic piece. That is not the aim of these ramblings (lest it be for me to be any more frenetically digressive than I currently am with verbal incontinence).
For all the virtues of the worthy preponderances conjured by Schreier and scriptwriter, Christopher D. Ford, this remains a minor piece played in a major key. The performances are not to blame. They are adequate. The direction is unfussy and competent too. The fact remains that this is not a film that lingers in the memory (oh, the irony) and the inconsistency of the dementia is jarring and grating. As is the fact that the technology is pitched at the future, yet the cars seem to be left over from the 1990s.
Ultimately, Robot & Frank is not quite funny enough to be a comedy and not insightful enough to be a weighty classic. The questions and the premise offered are both interesting but the conclusions do not entirely satisfy. That is not to say that this is not a valiant effort. It is. It is just that the achievement falls short. Seek this out for the idiosyncratic nature of the set-up and consider the ideas, just do not expect to leave completely satisfied.
If you like this, try this: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – An obvious choice, but this remains the perfect meld between thoughtful cinema, radical effects and rampant robots (not in that way).
You can see the trailer for Robot & Frank here: