There’s a little known, but beloved, sci-fi masterpiece from 2012 that some of you may have missed called Robot and Frank. It’s a low budget, but beautifully made film, directed by Jack Schreier and written by Christopher Ford, that focuses on Frank, an older man living on his own, with a jaded past, that receives a robot from his son, designed to make his life a little easier.
Set a little ways into the future, the film does not at first look like a sci-fi movie. Everything looks pretty much like it did in 2012, but every now and then we are reminded that things have moved on more than we first notice. Phones are slim, see through hand held tablets and robots work in the library. Frank is stubborn and cranky, and the weekly visits from his son seem problematic, so a robot companion seems like a good idea. However Frank is not impressed with his new toy, until he finds a way to utilise it in a way that offers him a new lease on life.
Frank is played by Frank Langella, and you would almost think the part had been written for him. It is a marvellous and understated performance, and Langella and the robot are like a strange re-imagining of The Odd Couple. There are moments of comedy, and tragedy, and as Frank and Robot strike up a strange symbiotic relationship you grow to love them both.
This was a first film for both the writer and director, and what a debut it is. Filmed in 20 days for $2.5 million, the film received great reviews, but did not receive a wide distribution. It is by no means perfect, but you do grow to love the relationship between the two characters, and that in itself is quite incredible as one is an emotionless robot.
With themes of mortality and ageing ever present, the production is tinged with sadness, but the journey is filled with delights as you go. A great cast, including Susan Sarandon and Peter Sarsgaard, bring a real world feeling to this slice of what might be, and if you have never seen this, I can think of worse ways to spend an hour and a half.