The Frank of ‘Robot & Frank’ is a slightly dotty retired jewel thief, rusting away in a remote New England community, a few years in the future. He’s played with old-school charm by Frank Langella, who’s deserved this kind of lead role for a while now. The robot is an Asimo clone bought by Frank’s son (James Marsden) to act as his father’s home help and health care worker. But it’s not long before Frank is taking advantage of the robot’s moral absence to carry out a series of daring cat burglaries in the neighbourhood.
‘Robot & Frank’ is sweetness itself: the buddy-buddy relationship between Langella and the straightest straight man in history is nicely written, while the new-lease-of-life angle is played with a pleasing absence of sentiment. But the film feels slight – it doesn’t quite crack 90 minutes – and never gains much momentum, trundling towards a morose but largely unmoving climax. There are some odd plot choices, too: a budding romance between Frank and local librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) adds heart, until a bizarre final-act twist undermines all that’s gone before. Ultimately, it feels as though the filmmakers have settled for the soft option one too many times, and the result is a pleasant but unmemorable watch.