Director: Jake Schreier
Starring: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Liv Tyler, James Marsden, Peter Sarsgaard, Jeremy Strong
Written by: Christopher D. Ford
Running Time: 89 mins
Release date: 8th March 2013
The one good thing about cinema is once in a while it throws up a movie that you don’t expect, that you listen to the premise and think “that isn’t going to work” and then it hits you right between the eyes. Robot & Frank has a ludicrous storyline and yet it works in every way, shape and form, producing an absolutely delightful gem.
Set in the near future, Frank is an ageing cat burglar who is struggling with the changes of the world around him and is also battling memory loss. His over protective son, Hunter, presents him with a robot in order to keep his world together. Frank immediately despises it but soon realises that it could be taught to become a thief. Trying to impress the local librarian, Jennifer, the man and machine steal a first edition of Don Quixote from the library Jennifer works at, where the books are being replaced by downloads, courtesy of corporate yuppie, Jake. This makes Frank come up with another plan. What he wasn’t expecting was finding a friend in Robot.
This is one of those films that really delivers everything: a heart-warming tale of friendship and connection but what is so unexpected is that it’s a stubborn old man and a piece of technology. Unbelievable, I know but writer Christopher D. Ford has created a delicious script full of wit, emotion and class. Jake Schreier’s direction is simple and unfussy, not allowing anything to interfere with the drama but letting his actors, particularly his lead, have room to do their thing.
As his son and daughter, James Marsden and Liv Tyler do a fine job, carrying the frustrations for their father’s stubborn attitude well, while Jeremy Strong is nicely annoying as the arrogant Jake. Susan Sarandon is a delight as the quiet Jennifer, who, close to 70, still looks stunning. The romance between her and Frank is gentle and never forced. In fact, it’s one of the sweetest I have seen in a while. Peter Sarsgaard is the perfect foil as the voice of Robot, having to deliver his lines in a monotone that doesn’t get annoying. A hard job indeed.
The film, however, belongs to Frank Langella. As Frank, he is perfect. A man with history that he is slowly losing with his memory loss and yet forming an unusual bond with his all-white companion, Langella is just class. A towering performance, he is mesmerising and commands the screen throughout. Langella has always been an actor who has never really made it big. Maybe after this, he will be given more roles in which he can really shine because he really does here.
At a very short 89 mins, this breezes through and it doesn’t have an moment where it could need trimming. It is near perfect. My only quibble, and we are really picking here, is why have Sarandon’s Jennifer in big librarian glasses? It’s kind of a stereotype.
If I can only say that as a criticism, then I must have really enjoyed this. I certainly did. It’s a film that sneaks up on you and wins you over instantly, leaving you with a big fat smile on your face. I highly recommend this terrific, small yet perfectly formed film.