Under the Radar?: “Robot & Frank”

Robot and Frank

“Robot and Frank” is a unique indie film about a man who befriends his home healthcare Robot… by teaching it to help him commit burglaries. After Frank is given the robotic home health care aide by his concerned children, he finds a way to manipulate its programming in order to help him reinvigorate his life of crime.

Starring Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Liv Tyler, James Mardsen and the voice of Peter Sarsgaard, “Robot & Frank” is an indie gem that will entertain and warm your heart.

Set in the near future, “Robot & Frank” tells the story of a lonely old man, who experiences something extraordinary. 

Frank (Frank Langella) used to be a burglar. A second story man. He’s done prison time in his younger years, but now he’s retired and living by himself just outside of a small town in upstate New York. His only crimes nowadays are shoplifting bars of soap from the local Bath and Beauty shop. Frank’s beginning to lose his memory, though, which causes his two children concern. His son (James Marsden) brings him a home healthcare robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) as opposed to sending him to a home. Frank, of course, greets the gift with hostility initially. He doesn’t want a robot, and he certainly doesn’t want to live by the robot’s suggested healthy living regiment.

Frank does connect with the local librarian (Susan Sarandon), but the library is undergoing changes due to technology, as well. The printed books are all to be scanned and recycled. The Library has a robot of their own, now, as well. Both Frank and the librarian bemoan the changes taking place, but they seem powerless to stop them.

As Frank gets accustomed to his Robot, however, he realizes that it doesn’t have any moral or ethical fail safes. It has no programming that would prevent it from breaking the law. Thus Frank begins to train him to assist in break-ins. He sees the Robot as the perfect accomplice/burglary tool. It can help him with complex security measures, and best of all, it won’t rat him out. 

What follows is a unique movie about a cagey old man, a Robot that’s more compassionate than most humans, a high stakes robbery, and a futuristic friendship.  

“Robot & Frank” is a charming movie. Watching Frank connect with the Robot… via crime is humorous and fun. The Robot is an endearing machine. Its sole program is to improve Frank’s health and well-being. So when Frank responds better to criminal activities than he does to gardening, it rolls with it. Together the two form a special bond, one that’s sure to endear the audience, which in turn sets the stakes when Frank’s children and his crimes threaten to break the two apart.

Langella is great as the old man who’s either more on the ball than everyone thinks, or simply responds really well when criminal activity is involved. His dialogue is great. He gets tons of funny, sarcastic lines, and trades off clever quips with the robot. Peter Sarsgaard voices the robot a la Kevin Spacey’s GERTY from “Moon”, that is, pleasant, accommodating and intelligent. It has personality, but it never forgets its programming. The two are surrounded by familiar faces in Sarandon, Mardsen, and Tyler, who help keep the likeability quotient of the film extremely high.

It’s a wonderful little indie film that speaks to aging, relationships, and what technology can be and do. I highly recommend you check it out, I’m sure you’ll find it as sweet, funny and satisfying as I did.


Daniel Fogarty

64 thoughts on “Under the Radar?: “Robot & Frank”

  1. Thanks for reminding me about this, I intended to see it and then it just literally slipped under my radar! I’ll be checking it out after this review 🙂

  2. Thanks for reviewing this one, Fogs. It’s one that I’ve had in the back of my mind once or twice but wasn’t sure whether to check it out or not. Or, more likely, wasn’t sure if I’d remember it by the time it came across my path. I’m a bit more likely to now.

  3. I’ve been wanting to see this for quite awhile. Sadly, there has been no blu-ray release and it’s not on Netflix streaming. I want to see it but will not pay $30 for a DVD.

    • Its not out on Blu? I havent looked, but a DVD only release nowadays seems… so… primitive. LOL

      Wow, youre right though. Geez. I dunno, do what I did an watch it on pay per view. Its almost the price of a movie ticket, but hey, its not $30!! 😮

      • After reading your review, I looked on Vudu (I use that for my Ultraviolet collection), and they have it there in High Def for 17.99. That’s not bad, I guess. I might pick it up, but really hate digital only.’

        I agree with DVD only releases seeming primitive. In my line of work, I have seen that DVD is being phased out, so it kind of seems silly that that’s the only release.

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