Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Robot and Frank


First of all, I’m amazed that they didn’t give the robot a name. I mean, if you’re making a movie with a humanoid robot, it’s almost mandatory that you give it a name, and probably a face as well. Most likely make him cute as a button and witty as well. But the writer and director were going for something else here.

Frank Langella is losing his memory. He forgets that his son hasn’t been at Princeton for 15 years, and keeps going to town to a favorite restaurant which closed several years ago. Like many old guys in his situation, he won’t admit what’s happened. And of course, everybody knows. So his son buys him a robot. The machine functions as a home health care nurse, cook, butler, whatever. It nags him to exercise, feeds him healthy, beautifully arranged food, talks with him. He slowly forms a bond with it. That could be an interesting story, but we’ve got surprises in store.

We learn early on that Frank is a shoplifter, and he’s not very good at it. Probably compulsive. Not long after that we learn that he was a professional thief, a second-story man who specialized in diamonds. He did two prison terms, six and ten years. And when he learns that the robot is not necessarily opposed to stealing (it might be good therapy for him, get him out of the house!) he decides to do another caper, with the robot helping.

Odd as it seems, it’s all logically laid out. The robot doesn’t have to follow Asimov’s laws or anything like that, though it would never harm a human. It is logical, without being silly about it. It can learn, And it is smart enough to know that it is not human, not even close. It doesn’t fear having its memory wiped (what we would call “death”), and it doesn’t feel emotions, smart as it is. It is a machine, and can only operate within strict parameters.

That’s really enough to say about that. There are more surprises, including a big one that neither Lee nor I saw coming. There is poignancy without anyone trying to jerk tears from your eyes. The robot is (I’m pretty sure) played by a small person in a robot suit, but is almost exactly like a real robot made by Sony. We are still a long, long ways from a useful humanoid robot, in my opinion. But this is the near future, and it works fine. There is good supporting work from Susan Sarandon and Liv Tyler. Quite a nice little film