“Robot & Frank” is a charming yet bittersweet little movie with a terrific cast. Frank Langella stars as Frank, a less than analog man in a distant future very digital world. Peter Sarsgaard gives voice to the robot help mate that Frank attempts to get to think outside the bot and tip the scales back in his favor. This part caper comedy and part sad look at growing old is available on Roanoke Cox Cable’s Epix On DEMAND through September 30 and on DVD through your Roanoke Valley Public Libraries.
A once vibrant jewel thief and family man, Frank now battles the onset of dementia and lives alone. His mostly absentee son Hunter (James Marsden) shows up one day with a robot that he insists Frank accept. Frank, the last man in town to still check out actual books from the library and flirt with the librarian (Susan Sarandon), wants nothing to do with Robot. That is until he learns that he can teach him some new skills. Frank and Robot then set out on a caper to save the library and make one final score that will allow Frank to leave something to his family.
Langella is delightful, feisty and pitiful and Sarsgaard’s almost but not quite human quality is perfect. Robot may not be real flesh and blood and heart and soul, but his relationship with Frank becomes more real than what Frank shares with Hunter or his equally absentee daughter Madison (Liv Tyler). They only want to make themselves feel like they are looking after dear old dad. Yet it is Robot that makes the ultimate sacrifice for Frank.
This nifty little movie shows us a future trying to say goodbye to the past. Older cars and vans share the road with other vehicles straight out of science fiction and standard homes and buildings can be found around architectural monstrosities of a brave new world. And while it first appears to be a comedy, “Robot & Frank” sneaks up on you with a heartbreakingly realistic portrait of the tragedy of growing old, the horrors of forgetting and the sadness of being forgotten.