Watch: Robot & Frank
Directed by Jake Schreier (Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2012)
Christopher Ford and Jake Schreier’s film is a quirky, amusing, and occasionally honest caper comedy about an aging burglar who mistakenly breaks into his own home. Frank (Frank Langella) is a former second-story man no longer capable of keeping his own house in order. The milk in the fridge is sour, the rooms are littered with junk, and Frank keeps forgetting that all his favorite eateries have long since closed.
In addition to what may be more than a touch of dementia, Frank suffers from a lifetime habit of grouchiness, which he exhibits each time his son Hunter (James Marsden) shows up dutifully for a weekly visit.
There is an endearing side to this curmudgeonly cat burglar that surfaces most clearly in his regular visits to the local library. Here Frank replenishes his supply of books and flirts with the charming librarian, Jennifer (Susan Sarandon).
Two sudden and unwelcome changes throw a wrench into Frank’s routines. A local tech consultant plans to digitize the library, which will eliminate Jennifer as well as Frank’s precious books. Closer to home Hunter purchases a 5-foot-tall robot for Frank, hoping to outsource the care he provides (and abuse he takes from) his father.
Frank, initially incensed and terrified by the robot’s arrival, realizes that a machine that can learn to pick locks could come in handy, especially when a certain tech consultant’s wife is laden with expensive jewelry. Suddenly the forgetful burglar is not so anxious about having a robot for a caregiver.
The question is whether the appearance of friendship provided by a robot who repeatedly asserts,“I am not a human being” can help Frank deal with the decline of old age before the rising tide of dementia erases everything. And that is a philosophical and not a digital question, one that can only be faced, not answered.
This article appeared on the November 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No. 11, page 42)