Under the Radar?: “Robot & Frank”

Robot and Frank

“Robot and Frank” is a unique indie film about a man who befriends his home healthcare Robot… by teaching it to help him commit burglaries. After Frank is given the robotic home health care aide by his concerned children, he finds a way to manipulate its programming in order to help him reinvigorate his life of crime.

Starring Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Liv Tyler, James Mardsen and the voice of Peter Sarsgaard, “Robot & Frank” is an indie gem that will entertain and warm your heart.

Set in the near future, “Robot & Frank” tells the story of a lonely old man, who experiences something extraordinary. 

Frank (Frank Langella) used to be a burglar. A second story man. He’s done prison time in his younger years, but now he’s retired and living by himself just outside of a small town in upstate New York. His only crimes nowadays are shoplifting bars of soap from the local Bath and Beauty shop. Frank’s beginning to lose his memory, though, which causes his two children concern. His son (James Marsden) brings him a home healthcare robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) as opposed to sending him to a home. Frank, of course, greets the gift with hostility initially. He doesn’t want a robot, and he certainly doesn’t want to live by the robot’s suggested healthy living regiment.

Frank does connect with the local librarian (Susan Sarandon), but the library is undergoing changes due to technology, as well. The printed books are all to be scanned and recycled. The Library has a robot of their own, now, as well. Both Frank and the librarian bemoan the changes taking place, but they seem powerless to stop them.

As Frank gets accustomed to his Robot, however, he realizes that it doesn’t have any moral or ethical fail safes. It has no programming that would prevent it from breaking the law. Thus Frank begins to train him to assist in break-ins. He sees the Robot as the perfect accomplice/burglary tool. It can help him with complex security measures, and best of all, it won’t rat him out. 

What follows is a unique movie about a cagey old man, a Robot that’s more compassionate than most humans, a high stakes robbery, and a futuristic friendship.  

“Robot & Frank” is a charming movie. Watching Frank connect with the Robot… via crime is humorous and fun. The Robot is an endearing machine. Its sole program is to improve Frank’s health and well-being. So when Frank responds better to criminal activities than he does to gardening, it rolls with it. Together the two form a special bond, one that’s sure to endear the audience, which in turn sets the stakes when Frank’s children and his crimes threaten to break the two apart.

Langella is great as the old man who’s either more on the ball than everyone thinks, or simply responds really well when criminal activity is involved. His dialogue is great. He gets tons of funny, sarcastic lines, and trades off clever quips with the robot. Peter Sarsgaard voices the robot a la Kevin Spacey’s GERTY from “Moon”, that is, pleasant, accommodating and intelligent. It has personality, but it never forgets its programming. The two are surrounded by familiar faces in Sarandon, Mardsen, and Tyler, who help keep the likeability quotient of the film extremely high.

It’s a wonderful little indie film that speaks to aging, relationships, and what technology can be and do. I highly recommend you check it out, I’m sure you’ll find it as sweet, funny and satisfying as I did.

A

Daniel Fogarty

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64 thoughts on “Under the Radar?: “Robot & Frank”

  1. It was quite good. I hope it is a sleeper hit and as always sends a message to all who are listening: STORY MATTERS. (Even second stories!) ~Regards, Dan

    • I dont recall the trailer… in fairness, that probably supports your point, LOL! :D

      Lets see if I can find it… Yup, the movie is better than that. LOL. Although, they pretty much show the entire story!

  2. Very interesting plot and I really like that cast. I don’t know if Sarandon and Langella have been in anything together, but I’m interested to see their interaction.

    • I just embedded the trailer in a previous comment if you want to have a look see, they were pretty good together, although, Langella spends most of the movie with the robot, which was cool too!

  3. Just watched it last week on DVD and adored it. If I had seen it at the theaters in 2012 it would have made my Best List. Not only was it funny in a charming way but it had a lot of heart. The reveal towards the end made a great film even better. Must buy this on BD. In other words, this film got a 10 from me.

    • Yeah, right? It definitely at least would have gotten honorable mention from me. It was that kind of good.

      It DID have a lot of heart. And you’re right, the end was pretty awesome. From that big bittersweet moment on was all really excellent.

  4. Good review bud. The cast is what makes this movie so damn special and it made me so happy and cheerful. A bit sad at the end, but still had me with a smile on my face after it all.

    • Yeah? Right? Kind of bittersweet I was just calling it. But they played everything so well throughout the movie that its bound to be heartwarming for audiences at the end of the day, I’d say!

      Thanks Dan!! :D

  5. Ha! So did you just fly off and watch this after my post today Fogs? I got the impression you hadn’t seen it? Or am I very late to the party and I never caught your post before mine went out? I’m confused!! LOL

  6. You and Mark Walker give it raves, so I’ll give it a go. A bit reluctant on this though. “Starting out in the Evening” got raves too but was a dull drag. His acting can be ponderous.

  7. Good review! So good to see that sci-fi can be made like this. It reminded me of Safety not guaranted. Similar approach to the genre.

  8. Loved this movie, great characters, great story, and when the twist comes towards the end it hits even harder because I know I wasn’t even expecting a twist. I really hope it eventually becomes a modern classic, or at least a cult favorite.

  9. Wow, great timing. I just saw it this last weekend as well. Really enjoyed it. sweet, funny, smart movie. Really nice acting turns and some great dialog as well. Definitely a ‘below the radar’ type film which should find a wider audience.

  10. I actually almost went to an early screening of this that Frank Langella attended but skipped it at the last moment. I really regret making that decision. Sounds excellent, I’ll have to see it. Nice review.

  11. I keep looking at this one in my TV’s on demand section, thinking “I should finally watch that one, I’ve heard it’s great,” then getting distracted by something. I think it’s finally time I sat down and watched. Great review!

    • You should hunt that puppy down, Adam! I’m pretty sure that On Demand release dates wind up the same, no matter who your provider is… so I bet its out there now.

      Definitely worth checking out. Its a quiet, but cool indie with a bunch of heart. You’ll dig it!

  12. How come none of you guys sent me the memo that it was Robot and Frank day? This is the 2nd post today I have read singing this films praises so I guess i really need to check it out.

  13. I LOVED this film. I’ve been extolling the virtues of Robert & Frank right after I saw it in September of 2012. It even made my Top 20 for the year. So glad you enjoyed it too.

      • Hate that stupid auto correct nonsense. I wish someone would do a time study and realize it nets out to a waste of time, because we have to go back and FIX it so often.

        Anyways, yeah, this easily would have been honorable mention for me, I’m not sure if it would have cracked my top ten or not. No way to know now :( I wish I had seen in in 2012!!

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