Alzheimer’s is Hollywood’s go to illness at the moment, the perfect way to get an audience to roll a tear. Sometimes it can be used well (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) but more often than not it can be used poorly (Friends with Benefits). Here we have Frank Langella playing Frank, a retired cat burglar who is a little behind the times (who wouldn’t be? It’s the near distant future) and unfortunately his Alzheimer’s seems to be moving out of the early stages and into something far more troubling. To help Frank cope, his son (Marsden) purchases a robot carer which works like a live in nurse. When Frank discovers that the robot has little concern for the law, he starts planning his next big heist.
It’s actually nice to see a main character dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. All too often we see how its effects can affect loved ones, but rarely is it the sufferer who takes the main stage. It is interesting to watch Frank cope with his symptoms in a world that already is strange to him. Langella plays it wonderfully, never do we feel like he’s an old fool who can’t look after himself, instead he’s strong, stubborn and resilient, the introduction of the robot only cements those feelings. The rest of the cast do nicely too, but this really is Langella’s place to shine, though special mention must go to the wonderful performances of Dana Morgan and Peter Sarsgaard who make the robot come alive as it’s body and voice respectively.
Frank’s relationship with the robot is the key thing here, the two play off each other so well, it really is a testament to Langella’s performance as he is probably only working off a crew member reading lines. This is one of the sweetest bromances to hit the screen this year. It’s also wonderful to see the way these two pull of their heists, it’s fun and sweet… one might even call it sentimental robbery. Sadly the last act of the film sort of falls into disarray as it can’t really find it’s footing on what the film is trying to say. It clearly cares about Alzheimer’s, the crumbling of our culture and what it is to be human but this all comes apart near the end.
Robot & Frank is a very charming picture with strong performances behind it’s title characters. It feels as though it wants to make a grand statement about life at times but sadly doesn’t quite make the leap to do so, but still it’s a fun ride while it lasts.