Review: ‘Robot and Frank’ (M) ***

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THIS is director Jake Schreier’s debut film and Christopher Ford’s first screenplay for the big screen. Do these novitiates entitle them to special consideration for this amusing, agreeable drama observing technology’s role in daily life some 30 to 40 years hence?

Three decades after divorce, Frank (Frank Langella) lives alone, his memory in an early stage of decay. But he remembers his profession – cat burglar, requiring special skills and imposing special risks. His son (James Marsden) brings him a droid to ease his housekeeping burdens.

The plot skips between Frank’s new domestic arrangements and his visits to the local library where Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) and IT guy Jake (Jeremy Strong) are converting reading into a paperless activity. The library has a treasured antique copy of “Don Quixote” that Frank and the robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard), after settling into an amicable relationship, steal. Next, they steal prime jewellery belonging to Jake’s wife. Here, the screenplay raises a neat moral issue. Should a robot, programmed to do all manner of useful things, be punished for criminal behaviour ?

There’s enough here to sustain a film where the ambience bridges now-time with a near future in which every home and every person has its robot.

“Robot and Frank” has numerous little moments that wound its verity. One of them is not little, easily recognisable but not so serious as to render the film beyond redemption or forgiveness.

This review begins with a question. Its infinitely variable answer depends on one’s point of view. Every life should experience agreeable small surprises. And every film.

At Dendy

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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