Man meets RAM
HE story of a robot and an old man losing his memory, Robot & Frank is a hard, funny and realistic look at the future.
Frank Langella has created some impressive performances ( Starting Out in the Evening, Frost/ Nixon), but in some ways, his role here as Frank is his best showcase yet.
Langella carries most of the film’s humour – considerable, though quiet and subtle. He is at all times showing us who this character is, what he is becoming and who he used to be. It’s a beautiful performance in a movie that happily seems at no point trying to be beautiful.
The world of Robot & Frank could be 20 years from now, or with the way technology is advancing, it could be 10. One hint of the time frame is that Susan Sarandon plays a friend of Frank’s named Jennifer. Sarandon is 65, but most of the world’s Jennifers are currently in their 40s. This movie takes place at a not-too-distant time when the most popular name on Social Security files is Jennifer.
Frank (Langella), in his 70s, suffers from two major ailments – he’s in the early stages of dementia and he’s bored stiff. Frank’s son (James Marsden) brings the robot along as a kind of health aid for Dad. Voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, it cooks, cleans and even gives enemas on request.
Happily, Robot & Frank doesn’t turn into the sentimental story of a man, a robot and their groovy kind of love. Screenwriter Christopher Ford and first-time feature director Jake Schreier are far too shrewd to take shortcuts into cliche.
Instead, the film boasts an imaginative plot, with interesting turns and moments of suspense as it touches on the preciousness of memory – human and artificial.
Frank Langella in