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Review: Robot and Frank

PUBLISHED: 08:43 08 March 2013 | UPDATED: 08:43 08 March 2013

Robot and Frank

Robot and Frank

Archant

Robot and Frank is everything that movies usually do badly, done beautifully. A gentle comedy/ drama about an aging cat burglar who is given a domestic robot to help him out around the house, it is sweet, poignant and heart-warming - but in a good way.

It’s a model piece of storytelling: it gets you there with the minimum of fuss.

Directed by Jake Schreier, it is a futuristic buddy movie about the unusual bond of trust between an ageing ex-con called Frank (Frank Langella), whose memory is faltering, and his VGC-60L robot helper (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard).

Langella is magnificently grouchy as the human half of the title. Rattling around in his countryside cottage, he is resentful of his children’s attempt to care for him and of the fact that a man who could once scale tall buildings and make off with diamonds can now barely remember what day it is and is reduced to acts of petty shoplifting.

When his son presents him with the robot, he is mightily resentful until he realises that perhaps this tin bucket could be used to pull off one last big job.

It’s a sci-fi set-up but the film wants to be almost anything but. Lush greenery fills the frame whenever possible and the forces of progress are generally viewed negatively – not in some Luddite way but out of resentment at change for change’s sake. Even the sci-fi elements are nostalgic.

The robot’s design suggests a yearning for a past era of benign dreams of future technology. It has the voice of HAL 9000, the white and black trim of an Imperial Stormtrooper but with the posture of C-3PO.

The fear is that Robot and Frank is one of those films that will gracefully elude an audience. Its premise suggests a caper and the third word in the title will probably put off the people who would enjoy it the most. Even before it’s been released, it is waiting to be rediscovered.

ROBOT AND FRANK (12A)

Director: Jake Schreier

Starring: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Liv Tyler, James Marsden, Jeremy Strong and the voice of Peter Sarsgaard

Length: 89 mins

****

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