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London Film Festival 2012: Robot & Frank - Review

Robot & Frank

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

JAKE Schreier’s Robot & Frank is a crowd-pleaser par excellence that engages the head and the heart.

It’s both a compelling human story and an intelligent examination of old age, companionship and the benefit and cost of scientific advance.

That it comes wrapped in a buddy movie and crime caper makes it all the more impressive.

Frank Langella plays grumpy ex-thief Frank, now struggling with the onset of dementia and estranged from his son (James Marsden) and daughter (Liv Tyler), the former of whom buys him a robot butler after becoming concerned by his deteriorating memory.

Initially greeting Robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) with disdain, Frank comes to depend on him and sees an opportunity to further his burglary career and thereby impress the attractive librarian (Susan Sarandon) he has a crush on.

One of the many strengths of Schreier’s film is the way that it works on so many levels. It’s amusing yet heartfelt, moving and poignant without being contrived and it doesn’t shy away from the complexities at play.

Issues of old age and mortality are addressed via Frank’s gradual realisation of his predicament, while in Robot the film touches on issues of humanity that have previously been raised in classic science fiction offerings from Blade Runner to Moon.

The central relationship between Frank and Robot is therefore frequently charming and genuinely affecting too, culminating in a last scene between them that really does bring a lump to the throat.

But there’s strong support from Marsden and Sarandon as well as a caper element that deftly combines humour and tension.

First-time feature director Schreier has therefore pulled off a masterful achievement in creating a film that has something to offer just about everyone. It really is that good and universally appealing.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 89mins
UK Release Date: February/March 2013 (tbc)
London Film Festival Dates: Thursday, October 11 (OWE1); Friday, October 12 (OWE2); Sunday, October 14 (Rich Mix)