Monday, September 10, 2012

"Robot And Frank": A Wired and Heartless Friend

Humans have always have this wired need to create, to bring to life new ideas, and sometimes to attempt to replicate life and play God. We always want to be a step ahead, out with the old and in with progress. Our societies have become numbly reliant on technology, even our most intimate human connections, such as friendship, now exist in a intangible space that allows us to be connected virtually. Even if we still don't live in a full blown Sci-Fi post-apocalyptic reality, our world is consistently becoming less organic and adapting to this dependence on machines to even function. Then, all that is left is the philosophical question debating what really exists and what defines our humanity in the wake of this unstoppable digital era. In a very impressive way this film attempts to bring this to our attention without being preachy or even over dramatic.
"Robot and Frank" might seem on the surface as a very charming and comedic film, (which indeed it is), but it is more than that.It uses this premise to create a micro-universal scenario for many of our current dilemmas, or if not, the ones that will present to us in the near future. Frank ( Frank Langella) is an elderly man who lives alone in a house in the middle of the forest, his past includes many high-end jewelry thefts and two children for whom he was never really available. Since Frank's memory is deteriorating, his son Hunter (James Marsden) decides to bring him a robotic helper, who is always refer to as simply "Robot". This cybernetic caregiver seems to have a personality of its own, but insists that every pinch of "emotion" that Frank perceives from him is not real. The Robot cooks for Frank, helps him with all of his chores, and tries to help improve his mood by any means necessary, even if it means helping him rob a library.
 Frank has a friend in town, a librarian named Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) she is the town's librarian and Frank's closest human connection. The library in town is being changed into a digital version of itself in which books are useless, the old way of doing things is defeated by innovation. Here is where the film transcends into something more profound than an enjoyable piece of cinema. It makes a statement about the technological developments that have changed us. Frank's relationship with the Robot seems more real than the one he has with his children, the same Robot who claims to know he does not exist appears to us soulful and vivid. This Robot, an inorganic and futuristic creature, serves Frank organic and healthy meals, and helps him set up a garden. This ambiguity between modernity and simplicity are stunningly eye-opening.
The film directed by Jake Schreier, is very warm and funny mostly because of the great "chemistry" between Frank and the Robot, even in such an awkward scenario there is a lot of truth in the film about our humanity. Frank's mistakes and his lack of interaction with others make him human, his memory, although failing now, its his source of humanity. Probably that is the greatest lesson the film teaches, that no matter how advance technology gets, it can't never compare to the human experience, our imperfections, the unfactorable human errors is what makes our journey through life enjoyable. "Robot and Frank" achieves to make us think about getting old, the future, human relationships, and while doing that also making us laugh. Out in theaters now. Grade A.

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