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  Robot & Frank Corrupted Memory
Year: 2012
Director: Jake Schreier
Stars: Frank Langella, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Peter Sarsgaard, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Strong, Jeremy Sisto, Rachael Ma, Bonnie Bentley, Ana Gasteyer, Katherine Waterston
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Frank (Frank Langella) is in his twilight years, living alone in the woods near a well off area of New York state and trying to hold onto his memories as dementia creeps inexorably into his mind and chases them away. His favourite haunt is the library where he can get a book to read but as it is he's practically their last customer because most people acquire their books digitally now, though at least he gets to chat with the librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon). But the less able he is to look after himself, the more concerned his son Hunter (James Marsden) gets, to the extent that he comes up with a drastic solution...

Which you can guess from the title, in a poignant little science fiction tale about the trials of old age where your friends have dwindled away and your family are worried about you but don't see you so often - Frank's daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) spends her time travelling abroad - and more importantly your faculties are slipping. Frank is aware that he's not as sharp as he used to be, but he's stubborn and doesn't wish to admit he needs help, thus the ideal solution Hunter dreams up is one of those new carer robots which are designed to carry out tasks for the elderly and keep them healthy. This doesn't go down too well with his father until he finds he quite likes the machine.

Not that he ever gives it a name, but as voiced by Peter Sarsgaard (Rachael Ma was in the suit) it is kind of a benevolent version of all those highly advanced robots which populate sci-fi but have a habit of going haywire for the full on futuristic dystopia to be unleashed. So much for that cliché, but this robot had a stronger antecedent to Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet, being strangely endearing and living to serve as far as its programming will take him. The sad thing is that in this stage of his life, it's the best friend Frank has, so you can see where this might be a useful and helpful item of technology, but also that its owner has moved past the point of being those things himself, not through his own fault.

However, while there would be a depressing story of a life winding down to eventual oblivion looming in many a different take on such a situation, in this case screenwriter Christopher D. Ford adopted a more lighthearted element when Frank's shady past is revealed. We understand Hunter is merely tolerating his father since he is family and not because the man was a good parent, and that is down to Frank spending most of his time in prison when his offspring were growing up; he's a jewel thief you see, and longs for the days when he could go around breaking in, stealing valuables, and finding ways of selling them off in dodgy deals. But can he relive this misspent youth (and middle age)?

The robot might be a key to that, thus Frank trains his new pal in the art of lock picking and safecracking. Their first target is the library because in his confused mind he wants to steal a rare ediition of Don Quixote and give it to Jennifer at a do to celebrate the takeover of the establishment by a powerful conglomerate, whose most visible member is Jake (Jeremy Strong), a slick operator who has just moved in locally. Frank dislikes him immediately and the film suggests we should be feeling the same way, but then he is not exactly a sympathetic character himself as we only feel any pity at his plight due to his crumbling mental state, an intriguing mix of emotions for such a seemingly simple plotline. Although there were times when director Jake Schreier was verging towards the too cute end of the scale, the fear of the downside of old age worked up a genuine interest in seeing how this would turn out, and as Frank's only ally is threatening to leave him too (his own fault) it closes on a poignant conclusion that we will all have to surrender eventually. Music by Francis and the Lights (the director's band).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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