Film review: Robot & Frank (12A)

 

A comedy drama about an old man and his befriending of a robot could have shortcircuited in tears of pathos. Instead, Robot & Frank noodles around the subject of this odd couple in ways you don't quite expect.

Frank Langella plays a pensioner, some time in the future, who's possibly losing his mind. The only person with whom he sustains a meaningful relationship is the local librarian (Susan Sarandon). His son (James Marsden) is sufficiently worried to hire a home help in the form of a robot, voiced, in an eerie-loveable way, by Peter Sarsgaard, which serves to rejuvenate Frank and restores to him his keenest enthusiasm: burglary.

First-time director Jake Schreier and his screenwriter Christopher Ford aren't emphatic about the futuristic setting – the Robot is a sleek, black-visored throwback to the 1970s – and they shape it as an old-fashioned meditation on the vital nature of memory, both human and technological. Langella, wry and roguish, is also very touching as a man dragged under by the tide of dementia.

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