‘Robot & Frank’ movie review

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Robot & Frank is set in the near future, where robots are employed to assist the elderly during the golden years of their lives.

One such person is Frank (Frank Langhella) – a cantankerous former jewel thief whose mind is unravelling. When his son Hunter (James Marsden) shows up to his home with one such a robot he is immediately against the idea. But when he finds it can pick locks faster than any human, he enlists Robot to help him pull off one last heist.

Langhella is a marvel as Frank; equal parts miserly, charming and fragile. He pushes everyone away from him, including his lady friend Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) and his daughter Madison (an irritatingly soppy and whiny Liv Tyler); yet you still find yourself rooting for him and his hair-brained scheme to rob the neighbours blind. Additionally it takes quite an actor to have credible chemistry with a faceless machine, but the Frost/Nixon star nails it. Peter Saarsgard’s monotone yet cutesy Robot voice helps.

What also works well is that the futuristic aspect of this story isn’t in the foreground; an excellent way of keeping the audience grounded. If every other person we encounter was accompanied by a piece of machinery with artificial intelligence, the heart of the story would be lost. Instead, it all blends well together to make a near future that is not only believable but possible.

At first it seems a shame to see a solid actress like Sarandon reduced to nothing more than a bit of skirt to get old Frank’s pulse quickening, but an emotional twist in her story towards the end knocks you for six. There’s much more to Jennifer than meets the eye. Plus, a lengthy scene between Langhella and Marsden is just beautiful.

Robot & Frank is a sweet story for all ages, but one that adults might appreciate more. Once you get past the ‘futuristic’ elements: (holographic phones, funny-shaped cars and, er, robots); at its core is a very human story about getting older.

Released in UK cinemas on Friday 8 March 2013.