Robot & Frank sees old film school friends, first-time feature director Jake Shreier, and writer Christopher D. Ford, team up with Frank Langella on a one-of-a-kind project of digital versus paper and motherboard versus heart.
Set in a near but undefined future, ageing retired thief Frank (Langella) lives a solitary life as he slips slowly into the grips of dementia. At first it may seem like your typical crotchety Grandad finds love story, but Frank has a darker past, and his fondness for visiting the library – and its last remaining human librarian, Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) – is more than a simple subplot. This is a film about being put out to pasture and the loss of tangible things.
Tired of dealing with Frank’s foul temper, son Hunter (James Marsden) installs a caretaker robot in his father’s home, much to the chagrin of Frank and distant daughter Madison (Liv Tyler). The machine voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, what follows is a sweet, subtle tale of friendship. Wry wit and a twist on the old buddy caper formula veers this away from a treatise on ethics, though the subject is used to comic effect, as one man and his selfless robot find their feet in a mutually agreeable friendship. As Frank revives past loves, thievery and otherwise, the story develops into a heartfelt exploration of memory and time.
Lead actor Frank Langella has spoken about working with first-time directors, Robot & Frank being the latest of his six collaborations with new filmmakers in the past ten years. “There is something terrific when you get to be my age to be gained by thinking you don’t know anything. I was once a 26 year-old actor… I like to give young people a piece of rope. If they hang themselves, they hang themselves. But none of them have.”
In fact, Langella worked closely with the filmmakers on the script forRobot & Frank. “It was one of the most original scripts I’ve been offered, [but] it still needed to go somewhere and relate to a man of my age, so I sat down with the writer and the director and we talked about what a 70 year-old man is feeling – because they couldn’t possibly know. They incorporated a lot of that into the movie.”
“I thought the premise, the characters, and that sort of sad, sweet, funny goal of the picture was so original. They just don’t come along that often.”
Robot & Frank is released in UK cinemas 8th March 2013.