Tuesday, December 3, 2013

DVD of the Week: Robot and Frank

Looking back over the last few weeks this has seemed in danger of turning into some sort of Doctor Who blog, and whilst that may be expected given the sheer volume of 50th anniversary stuff, it does throw into sharp relief that it's been over a month since we last sat down with a movie to watch in the comfort of our own home. And in many ways thats a good thing, because one of the risks of being a parent is that it's easy to spend all your time once the kids have gone to bed watching movies in the comfort of your own home. But in many ways I've missed it, and it was nice to get back to the habit, especially with a low-budget charmer like Robot and Frank

When we first meet Frank he is absent-mindedly committing burglary on his own home. Frank was a "second storey man", a talented thief who eventually served time for tax violations, because, it was implied, they couldn't nail him for the actual crimes themselves. That time, and to an extent his irascible temperament, has also cost him his marriage and relationships with his two kids, which hover around on the periphery of his life, but definitely at a distance. Sadly, Frank is also getting old, and his memory is going. He forgets things; little things like the expiry date on the milk, and larger, deeper things too. So to help out, his son gets him a Robot assistant. A Robot Assistant, who thinks he need a project to keep his mind occupied... 

Robot and Frank is a lot of different things packed into a gently paced 90 minute movie, which is achievement all to itself. It's a buddy movie, between and old man and a Robot, which is sweet, and funny and touching, and beautifully acted by Frank Langella and the combination of voice and physical performers on the Robot. It's also a melancholy drama about aging, and loss, and the importance of memory. It's also a jaunty little heist drama where there is never any question of sympathy for the roguish burglar over the annoying hipster victim (although the Sheriff was pretty cool). 

It manages to be all of these things by none of them being terribly deep, and its real acheivement, I think is avoiding the looming pitfalls of being mawkish or too telegraphed in where it's going. The story does its work as it should do, letting the performances, especially Langella, but everyone really, carry the audiences along. Its one of those films I just smiled all the way through, sometimes wryly, sometimes sadly, but its an absolute joy to watch from start to end.