Robot & Frank (2012)  » Movies  »
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  • But for those of us starting to fear the inadequacy of retirement funds and the slow seizing up of our joints, Robot & Frank presents some interesting possibilities for the ‘near future’
  • I enjoyed the visual feast presented by the setting
  • You might almost believe the robot has feelings when it appeals to Frank’s sense of pity, begging Frank to help him succeed in his mission to avoid being de-programmed

    • by R_Machine
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      This is a movie about an elderly man. Yes, it’s got a robot in it and, yes, the old man used to be a cat burglar, but it’s still a movie about an old person. That may not excite some of the younger generation. But for those of us starting to fear the inadequacy of retirement funds and the slow seizing up of our joints, Robot & Frank presents some interesting possibilities for the ‘near future’. I am one of those people and I want my robot now!

      But do I really want to depend on a pre-programmed automaton for my meals, my health and – most frightening – my emotional support?

      Robot & Frank is set in New York state. Its beauty makes me sick with jealousy. From Frank’s big


      old house in the dappled forest to the grand library building he visits compulsively, there’s beauty everywhere. Even the villains inhabit a stunning hunk of architecture, though there’s is modern and Frank’s is old. I enjoyed the visual feast presented by the setting.

      As a work of science fiction, Robot & Frank does not go all-out with silver jumpsuits and matter transporters. Its technological advancements are limited to funny looking little electric cars that whizz by like remote controlled toys and mobile phones in glass tablets with hologramatic images. For me this made the film believable and easy to relate to.

      Of course there is also the robot. The robot is left at Frank’s home by his practical but bitter son who is concerned about his father’s slippery grip on the present. The robot’s presence in Frank’s home is opposed by Frank’s lefty, world-saving daughter. The daughter’s gradual resilement from her anti-robot labour principles is interesting. She goes from switching the robot off to telling Frank and the robot, ‘You two are cute’.

      The robot gets to work on Frank’s physical and mental health. There ensues an amusing battle of wills between the robot with its gardening projects and Frank with his grouchy refusal to participate.

      You might almost believe the robot has feelings when it appeals to Frank’s sense of pity, begging Frank to help him succeed in his mission to avoid being de-programmed. But no, the robot’s clever programing includes a capacity to manipulate. Yet the robot is not secretly evil, plotting the downfall of humanity like so many of its silver screen counterparts.


      • Robot & Frank (2012)
      The robot is simply programed to do a particular job and is not interested in other matters.

      Take its view on crime. The robot knows what crime is, but has no feelings about it other than his concern over how it will affect Frank’s health. If a return to cat burgling revives Frank’s cognitive function, the robot will have succeeded in its mission. In this way, Robot & Frank resists the urge to humanise the robot, for good or evil. I felt the film was more realistic because of this. I enjoyed the fact that the robot’s programmer had not bothered to give the robot a set of ethics or moral principles.

      Frank does not resist the urge to humanise the robot. When he refuses to erase the robot’s memory, has he crossed

      the line into emotional attachment for this device? Well, who could blame him if he had? I feel the pang of separation any time I leave the house without my phone. When my internet connection is lost, I descend into helpless rage. My attachment to my technological ‘friends’ runs deep already and I haven’t got a robot yet.

      So what is Robot & Frank ultimately saying to us? I came away thinking that robots will never outdo the human brain. Robots can’t replace humans, but they can give it a pretty good shot and do a lot of our work for us. It’s quite likely that in the ‘near future’, we will have not only a vacuum cleaner that finds its own way around, but also an artificially intelligent automated house servant/nurse. I want my robot now!




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Mackenzie says :

This was one of my favorite movies of 2012. Langella and the robot had a believable chemistry and showed that the sci-fi genre can have a heart as well as a brain.

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