A tale of growing old (dis)gracefully that is both sweetly understanding and upliftingly melancholy, Jake Schreier's directing debut makes virtues out of its low budget and high-concept premise, running with them in not entirely predictable directions. Set in a near-future where robot helpers have become the norm, Robot & Frank tells of what happens when forgetful curmudgeon Frank Weld (Frank Langella) gets a robot carer from his son (James Marsden) so he can go on living on his own in his New Hampshire small town.

     What starts as a gently moving look at the difficulties of aging and one man's reluctance to admit he is now longer young shifts imperceptibly into an equally gentle questioning of progress, through the characters of the local librarian (a wonderfully subtle Susan Sarandon) whose job is on the verge of irrelevance and of his own activist daughter Madison (Liv Tyler), who insists on independence from robots' "slave labour". And then, as Frank is revealed as a retired master thief, the film becomes an impossibly cheerful "last hurrah" of a heist movie, the robot (impeccably voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) going along with all the scoping and planning as a means to keep Frank "active".

     Mr. Schreier handles the tonal shifts with some confidence, befitting a project where it's feeling and tone that matter most, even if Robot & Frank sticks mostly in neutral throughout, never truly soaring to the heights it promises nor sinking into the abysses of platitude. What it retains throughout - and that is its key - is an essentially charming quality, greatly helped by the stellar performance of Mr. Langella in the title role, and a clever but never cocky modesty that makes it a pleasing, heart-warming film.

Cast: Frank Langella, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Jeremy Strong, Jeremy Sisto, Peter Sarsgaard, Susan Sarandon
Director: Jake Schreier
Screenplay: Christopher Ford
Cinematography: Matthew J. Lloyd (colour, widescreen)
Music: Francis and The Lights
Designer: Sharon Lomofsky
Costumes: Erika Munro
Editor: Jacob Craycroft
Producers: Galt Niederhoffer, Sam Bisbee, Jackie Kelman Bisbee, Lance Acord (Park Pictures in association with White Hat Entertainment and Dog Run Pictures)
USA, 2012, 89 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 12 (Lisbon), February 26th 2013


Popular Posts