Robot & Frank


A more hopeful reimagining of 2001‘s portrait of man-machine relations, Robot & Frank envisions a near future in which automated servants aid the elderly in their twilight years. But for retired cat burglar Frank (Frank Langella), memory loss is something to be denied, and the robot his son Hunter (James Marsden) saddles him with is an intruder to be hated—until, that is, Frank discovers that the mechanical assistant (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) is willing to be trained as his thieving accomplice. Jake Schreier’s film charts their burgeoning friendship—which comes to include heists and cover-ups both sly and clumsy—with an attention to Frank’s need for a companion who will listen to him and acknowledge him for who he is. The sentimental drama is more attuned to issues of acceptance and self-reflection than actual suspense, even though a nicely underplayed climactic revelation and Sarsgaard’s vocal performance deftly color the robot’s preprogrammed remoteness with hints of human curiosity and deviousness. Exhibiting a heartbreaking sense of destabilization and confusion that can’t quite snuff out Frank’s indomitable criminal (and cranky-old-man) spirit, it’s Langella, however, who ultimately props up this borderline schmaltzy character study. Nick Schager