A worthy addition to the 2012 London Film Festival line-up: this is a sweet and human story that just happens to be a science fiction film.
Frank is an ageing jewel thief. As living alone becomes more of a struggle, his son provides him with a robot to help out around the home. Initially balking at the prospect, Frank soon warms to the idea when he realises the robot may be able to help out in more than just simple domestic matters. Together they hatch a plot that keeps Frank active and the onset of his dementia at bay.
Robot and Frank can be termed as ‘soft sci-fi’. (That means no jet boots and lazer guns, but it is the future, featuring small advances in technology but not too dissimilar to the present day.) This element works well. It’s a very believable vision of the near future, striking a good balance between the known and the unknown.
The mighty Frank Langella (Frank) delivers a nuanced performance opposite the titular Robot. No mean feat considering his co-star is a composite of metal and plastic. Peter Sarsgaard is perfectly cast as the voice of Robot. (Although the two actors have still, to this day, not actually met each other.) Langella is dryly funny and supercool as the tough-as-nails ex-con. James Marsden and Liv Tyler lend solid support as his concerned son and daughter. Susan Sarandon also features, as does Jeremy Sisto, a talented actor I’d really like to see more of.
It’s consistently funny throughout. It also deals with a depressing subject like Alzheimer’s in an engaging but un-patronising manner, and it always makes for an entertaining watch. There are plot points that don’t entirely work but I liked it so much I’m disinclined to pick holes. By and large this is a very charming flick by first time director Jake Schreier, from a hugely original script (from which I predict copycats galore) by Christopher D. Ford.