An affecting drama with just a dash of sci-fi in the mix, Robot & Frank is a great little film that manages to impress viewers without the need for any unnecessary frills. Of course, Frank Langella being fantastic in the main role is a huge plus.
Langella plays Frank, a man who used to be a jewel thief but who now has to get used to the quiet life. Well, that's what his son (James Marsden) and daughter (Liv Tyler) are hoping for. His son even gives him a gift, a robot butler, to both help him around the house and keep him company. But it's not long until Frank realises that the robot may be able to give him a second shot at his favourite, though illegal, career.
Written by Christopher D. Ford, this is a beautiful little film, one that mixes in a few great characters with a small amount of humour and a story arc that viewers will genuinely care about as things play out. It's a seemingly simple drama that's freshened up slightly thanks to the small sci-fi touches throughout, and also thanks to the great cast. As well as Langella, Marsden and Tyler (who isn't onscreen for very long at all), there are also decent turns from Susan Sarandon (a real highlight in her relatively small role), Peter Sarsgaard and Jeremy Sisto, among others.
Director Jake Schreier does well by the material, never overdoing the emotional button-pushing until a final 10-15 minutes that really earns the right to tug at the heartstrings of anyone watching. There are one or two surprises, but none of them will leave viewers feeling cheated.
It's a shame that, perhaps, some people may avoid this because the word "robot" is in the title, while others may seek it out expecting something more sleek and shiny. It's a drama, first and foremost, about aspects of the human condition (growing old, becoming vulnerable, etc.), but it also uses the near-future world that it presents to highlight just how so much can stay the same while so much else changes.
Almost a dictionary definition of the word "unassuming", Robot & Frank might just end up impressing you as much as it impressed me. It's sweet without being sickly, moving without being TOO heavy-handed, and simply entertaining from beginning to end.