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SFF opening-night film: 'Robot and Frank'

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  • | 4:00 a.m. April 15, 2012
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Frank is a persnickety old curmudgeon, played beautifully by Frank Langella, who lives in a near-futuristic world where he is “so square, he’s almost avant-garde.” He isn’t only isolated by his love for printed literature in a world where everything is online, but also by his children’s inability to take care of or connect with him.

Much to Frank’s objection, his son (James Marsden) employs a robot caretaker to monitor Frank’s health. But once former jewel thief Frank learns he can teach the robot how to be his second-story, lock-picking partner in crime — he realizes his buddy isn’t so bad after all.

The reality of a lonely existence in a world where memories fail him is sadly true-to-form. The film’s balance between sullen moments and quirky details forces the film in a more charming and heartwarming direction than what could have been an otherwise dark and heavy plot.

First-time feature director Jake Schreier adapted the screenplay from a short film he worked on at NYU about an older man dying with a robot. I’d bet we will be seeing a lot more of Schreier in the future.

Langella’s portrayal of Frank from a tired, forgetful older man just passing time to the eager, loveable thief was done beautifully. The robot was all it took to ignite an enthusiasm that reminded him of what living is. The parallel between Frank’s declining memory and the robot’s perfect memory being wiped leads to the question: Does memory make a person real?

There are touching moments, hilarious one-liners and astute acting that was sometimes captured in one take. This low-budget, sci-fi flick is worth every penny.

It’s only a matter of time before the public will be able to view this gem because Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and Samuel Goldwyn Films have picked it up for distribution.

Audience Reactions:
• “I thought it was brilliant,” says Sarasotan Urte Tuerep. “(When you are older), there’s something that makes you come alive again for a little while, and that’s what the robot did for Frank …That actually happens (in life), and when it does, you have to grab the spark and run with it.”

• “It was fabulous,” says Sarasotan Carl Fazio. “It was a mixture of happy and sad.”

• “I loved it. It was very genuine,” says Sarasotan Pat Burke.

• “The movie was really about loneliness and how as you get older, you become isolated,” says Sarasotan Bonni Billingham. “The robot offered him a life jacket when Frank was out at sea. It let him be who he was.”

• “I thought it was wonderful, and I loved the discussion afterward,” says Sarasotan Becky Pomponio. “That’s what makes SFF so special, you really learn something.”