As you may know I do enjoy the subject of Robots and robotics. My first hero was Steve Austin, “The Six Millon Dollar Man” (not quite a Robot but at 4 years-old I was heading in a direction). I chuckled at the terrible “Holmes & Yoyo” before I knew any better. My heart went out to Marvin in the TV version of “The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy“. For me Data was the star of “Star Trek: The Next Generation“. The more said about “Terminator” (when he was evil) the better. I rooted for Roy, Leon and Pris as they struggled against their limited life-spans in “Blade Runner“. Never mind Spielberg’s sentimentality, I loved the interplay between Teddy, David and the other Mecha models from “A.I.” Despite Will Smith’s pain in the ass cop I enjoyed the humanisation of the superior Nexus Robot Sonny from “I, Robot“. I could have done without Robin William’s saccharine drenched performance in “Bicentennial Man”. Sorry if I have skipped your favourite but I need to get to the review.
Set in the near future Frank (Frank Langella) is a divorced and retired burglar. His son (James Marsden) and daughter (Liv Tyler) notice he is beginning to forget things. Frank’s only out-put are his trips to the local library and his only friend is the librarian (a lovely performance by Susan Sarandon). Afraid for his safety his son brings him a service Robot to look after him. The Robot looks like a cousin of Honda’s Asimo and a possible mini-transformer to their Pilot range.
The treatment of Frank’s dementia is somewhat undeveloped. At first his children’s attitude is one of natural impatience when a parent begins to be forgetful but then as the story’s focus changes these elements become romanticised, as does the involvement of the local rich yuppies and police.
This is because the story really focuses on a short period where the Robot, voiced by Peter Sarsgaard in an excellent measured tone, sets about house-keeping and nursemaiding Frank.
Unlike my list above, though it can learn, this Robot it is not self-aware. Despite it reminding Frank and the audience of this fact with a little suspension of disbelief I still found myself warming to the mechanical man (even before Frank sees its potential and they set about reigniting his old career). The growth of this companionship is treated with such tenderness that you can almost forgive the lack of attention to other parts of the plot. This is the heart of the story.
Don’t expect Robots to take over but do expect this appliance to make a small difference to Frank’s degenerating world. It is a future fairy tale.
For non-critical Robot lovers and sentimentalists everywhere.