ROBOT & FRANK is about the ends and beginnings of friendship- between an aging troublemaker, Frank and his family, loved ones, and an improbable union with a soft-spoken but pushy robot caretaker. Set in the near-future, Frank (Frank Langella) has lost all of his friendships. He lives alone in a warm but empty house in the secluded, gorgeous Hudson Valley. What should be a happy retirement is in truth a series of days that blend into one another where time is without meaning. Also, Frank is not well, he is forgetful, losing his world to the creeping ravages of dementia- so his solitude is based on the fact that he doesn't remember those closest to him. Instead of putting Frank in an assisted living center, his son, Hunter (James Marsden) elects to bring the care to his father's home- in the form of a short, white robot nurse. Frank is unsurprisingly pissed at his son's gesture and he takes it out on the robot in a series of sinister scenes.
However, some friendships are born from antagonism, and the one that emerges between Frank and his robot is as touching yet unsentimental as possible. The filmmakers rightly do not turn the robot into a Wall-E type character, in fact the robot's charm comes from his consistently dry delivery. There are a few truly laugh-out-loud moments in this film that don't force the humor. And something more brilliant takes place here- it's not about a robot becoming a human being's friend, it's about a human being treating a robot as a friend. By isolating the variables to one human, the film shows that the generosity, frustration and love that we express to our friends comes from within. We may react to people in the way they treat us, but where the one we're around is devoid of emotion or intent, we nevertheless practice the values of friendship with that being. That's where ROBOT & FRANK succeeds brilliantly- in displaying the giving nature of humans without forcing it to fit a gimmick.
There's a lot of plot here that I don't want to ruin- it's a movie that should be experienced without any prior knowledge. Just take the time to find this film and hopefully you will see the statements on friendship that are so thoughtfully expressed throughout.