Robot & Frank is set in the near future, when robots can cook your meals, clean your house, and create a garden in your backyard. Frank suffers from memory loss in his older years and receives a robot as a gift to help him with daily tasks.
While I waited for this film to start, I sat in an artsy theater, surrounded by people who were obviously many years my senior, and I wondered if I’d made the right decision in seeing this film. Apparently I’m ageist, but I wondered if I’d be able to relate to the main character enough to enjoy the experience. It turns out I related to him terrifyingly too well.
As someone who fears the loss of tangible media, as well as the thought of robots someday being much smarter than me, I had no problem seeing Frank’s point of view. But as Frank’s mind deteriorates, the robot becomes a sounding board, reflection, and retainer of Frank’s thoughts, fears, and talents. Initially, I was turned off by the film’s tagline: “Friendship doesn’t have an off switch.” But by the end of the film, I had an emotional connection to the robot, too, since it represented an “out” for a crumbling mind, not the actuality of a sentient friend.
This is a different robot movie. There isn’t any of the sap and robot-humanity of A.I. and this isn’t some action movie foreshadowing the destruction of the human race in the wake of a robot insurrection. It’s simply about a robot helping a man with everyday tasks. By the end, I wanted a robot of my own.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its problems. There is a weak plot twist that rubbed me the wrong way and some jarring stylistic decisions thrown in at the end, but overall this film is funny, smart, charming, and honest. I’d definitely recommend seeing it.