We chose Robot and Frank, one of my must-sees for our first feature length movie at Sundance. If this film is any indication, we are definitely off to a great start.
As our viewing of the movie was the premiere, we enjoyed the camaraderie of the infamous Sundance wait list line. Fortunately, everyone who showed up got a seat in the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. The movie was introduced by the director, Jake Schreier.
Robot and Frank takes place in the near future and is about an elderly man, Frank (Frank Langella), suffering from memory loss. His son, Hunter (James Marsden), who is concerned about him, gets him a robot companion. Frank, however, has an interesting history as a cat burglar, and ends up using the robot to help him with some new burglaries.
What a great premise, right? Writer Christopher D. Ford stated in the Q&A that he got the idea from a news piece about Japan looking at robot companions to help deal with their expanding elderly population. It is an interesting concept and works great on film.
I loved this movie. It’s one of those rare things of beauty that I would expect to come out of a film festival like Sundance. Frank Langella brings such heart to his character, a man trying to perhaps recapture his glory days before he no longer remembers them. Kudos also to the supporting cast: Liv Tyler as the flighty daughter and Marsden as the frustrated son capture the pain that children suffer when dealing with a stubborn aging parent. As I have some experience with this, I found that much of this movie hit very close to home. Susan Sarandon as Jennifer rounds out the all-star cast as a librarian who seems to care as much about Frank as his children does.
Also, Peter Skaarsgard as the voice of the robot, gives us a sense that although the robot was a machine, you could forget that often, as easily as Frank does in the film. I found it utterly heartbreaking every time the robot reminded us that it was not a human. You go into this film sort of wanting it to be.
The cinematography has a wonderful pacing that not only fits Langella’s tone, but also the way in which the film was written. And the music is perfect in capturing the essence of the future, while still giving a nod to the past.
Finally, as a sci fi buff, I really liked the futuristic aspects added to Robot and Frank, particularly how the library in Frank’s town was being turned into something without books and something more technologicaly advanced. From the cell phones to video calls, this felt like a very possible real future. In the Q&A, Ford stated that the year would be around 2025, which is not all that far away.
There is a wonderful plot twist towards the end that really hits you in the right emotional spot, too. But don’t get me wrong, because this movie is also funny at times.
This was an excellent choice for my first festival film. As a whole, it really gives me an idea of what Sundance is about: great storytelling.