Robot & Frank: A Great New Sci-Fi Flick Set in the Present
It sounds like it could be the premise for a schlockfest: In the near future, an old man named Frank (Frank Langella) is losing his memory. His brain is addled with blackouts and spacey digressions at inopportune moments. Frank’s son buys a caretaker robot to watch over him, and an unlikely friendship blossoms between the robot and the man. The hook to Robot & Frank, though, is that Frank has a history as a jewel thief—it’s the reason for the metaphorical and literal distance between Frank and his kids and his estranged wife—and he soon enlists the robot as an accomplice on some heists. (The robot rightly decides that Frank’s cognition improves when he’s planning a job, so it goes along with the scheme for the good of its ward.) It all adds up to a surprisingly effective sci-fi movie—a gentle, observant comedy that knows exactly how far to push before it treads into clichéd territory. One late-stage revelation doesn’t quite work, but by then the movie has already charmed the hell out of you with its resistance to cloying life lessons. What starts as high-concept transforms into something low-key, kindhearted, and surprisingly resonant. Dear Hollywood: More sci-fi movies like this, please.