The power of exceptional science-fiction is in how we’re reflected in technology and how that can illuminate our own hypocrisy, philosophy and fragile humanity. Frank (Frank Langella) is an elderly loner suffering from increasingly frequent episodes of memory loss when his son (James Marsden) purchases a Robot carer (voiced by Peter Saarsgard) to care for him at home instead of forceful hospitalisation. Frank has an epiphany and enlists the Robot's help to come out of 'cat-burglar' retirement.
Langella plays as the titular Frank and effectively surrenders to the slippery cognitive space between the cantankerous, grumpy bastard and a directionless lost child. It's a well layered performance that’s funny and devastating in equal measure. Robot is perfectly constructed both physically and in Sarsgaard's deliberate, dulcet warmth. There’s something to be said about a being that occupies a space to instantly assist in suspending that disbelief. The unnamed Robot is not a piece of CGI trickery - it inhabits Frank's world and thus their physical interplay informs their relationship. Susan Sarandon delivers a brief but potent performance as the town librarian that Frank’s fond of.
Director Jake Schreier and writer Christopher D. Ford don’t get bogged down in the futuristic elements to the story and instead focus on how technology (in this case a Robot) can assist in quality of elderly life. Robot becomes Frank’s (and the audience’s) sounding board for what being alive means while reflecting on a misspent criminal life.
The subtle electronic score by Francis and the Lights tunes your emotional frequency to Frank’s journey and implicitly influences and cajoles your emotions throughout.
Robot and Frank poses those big sci-fi, existential questions but with the bedside manner of a carer.
Directed by: Jake Schreier
Written by: Christopher D. Ford
Starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon, James Marsden
Robot and Frank is released on the 15th of November 2012 in Australia