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Robot And Frank

Robot And Frank

By Patrick Samuel • July 10th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
ROBOT & FRANK (MOVIE)
Momentum/Alliance

Release date: July 15th, 2013
Running time: 89 minutes

Director: Jake Schreier
Writer: Christopher D. Ford
Composer: Francis and the Lights

Cast: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Peter Sarsgaard

Robot And Frank

As he neared his last years I watched my father’s health deteriorate. While his heart, kidneys, eyesight and hearing began to fail him, the one thing he refused to give up was his independence. Like my grandfather before him, my father enjoyed his walks, cooking his own meals and hauling his groceries up the stairs despite our insistence that he should be more careful and let us help him. It wasn’t until he took a fall just before Christmas 2011 that we realised how fragile our once strong father had become, and I think he began to realise it too.

Robot & Frank was a film I wasn’t sure I wanted to see. It’s been almost nine months since losing my father and films that touch on the subject of elderly parents, such as Amour (2012), are still too much of an emotional experience, but in the end I figured I should be brave and face whatever came my way. I was glad I did because it helped me see some things from my father’s point of view through the film’s main character, Frank.

Set some time in the future, Frank (Frank Langella) is a man in his senior years who’s having trouble remembering things. He’s divorced and lives alone. His son Hunter (James Marsden) is well-meaning but it’s apparent he’s becoming tired of visiting him, having his own family to spend time with, although he’s reluctant to place his father in a home. Hunter’s solution is to buy Frank a robot companion (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) to do things like see about his meals and engage him in activities such as gardening. Frank is initially hostile to the idea but gradually he warms to the robot.

Robot And Frank

There’s also Madison (Liv Tyler), Frank’s daughter who’s constantly away and occasionally gets in touch via video messaging. It’s quite clear she’d rather get on with her own life and her important work than take time to spend with her father. Frank tends to drop by the local library to see Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) who works there and we can see from how he interacts her that he’s absolutely smitten.

What we should also know about Frank is that he has a tendency to steal things. His kleptomania isn’t a result of his mental deterioration and dementia though, in his earlier life he was quite the cat-burglar and one day when he discovers the robot isn’t programmed to distinguish between legal recreational activities and criminal ones he realises he can rope the little guy into helping him commit a few more crimes. As Frank begins to talk more with the robot he starts to connect with him in a way that’s not been possible with Hunter and Madison, who later on shows up to voice her disapproval of the robot’s presence in her father’s life.

What we see with Robot & Frank is a film that’s beautifully written, shot and scored and not least of all acted wonderfully by its main cast. Robot And FrankFrank Langella balances stubbornness and vulnerability easily as a man trying to cope with a world that’s rapidly changing around him while he’s trying to stay connected to the people he knows best. Peter Sarsgaard voices the robot perfectly and the dialogue between them intelligent and at times heart-warming too, with a little bit of René Descartes’s “cogito ergo sum” thrown in.

Meanwhile the younger cast members, James Marsden and Liv Tyler, come across as both spoilt and rather selfish in their attitudes towards their aging father. It’s this idea of the younger generation abandoning the older that makes Robot & Frank an extremely poignant film. Touching on issues such as artificial intelligence, dementia, Alzheimer’s and healthcare for the elderly the film combines a sensitive touch with moments of light comedy, making it easily enjoyable and lovingly memorable – despite my initial reservations.

We’re nothing but our memories.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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