Review: Robot & Frank

Spoiler Warning: Robot & Frank (minor)

Trigger Warning: Dementia/memory loss

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Robot & Frank came out in 2012, directed by Jake Schreier and written by Christopher D. Ford. After this movie, I’ll definitely be looking out for Schreier’s name in the future.

The movie takes place in the near future. Now, near-future scifi is hard to do: the technological landscape is changing so fast, and if you mess it up, your movie can end up with a very short shelf life. Robot & Frank is a good example of how to do near-future scifi right. It’s clear they did their research when writing the screenplay and designing the robots. In fact, during the credits they run videos of actual robots. Other technologies that we see in the movie include video calling over  television, which is voice activated. Funny story: I originally looked at that and thought “yep, that’s the next step”.

Then I realized that actually, that already exists. I’ve seen like five commercials for it in the last couple weeks. It just has to become more common.

So, as far as realism goes, this movie does really well. The technology is realistic, and it looks at how that technology effects people. The tone and theme reminded me somewhat of Asimov’s I-Robot, although that dealt with things farther in the future.

Throughout the movie we see Frank struggle with his dementia, and with his desire for independence. One of the things that makes technology so potentially wonderful is that it can help people retain their independence when they would otherwise lose it, and this is where a lot of technological development happens. Robots are being developed for therapy as well as physical assistance (the former being a large part of what Robot does in the movie). 

Other kinds of technology are being used with similar purposes and are more widely available at the moment: I myself have an app on my phone called MediSafe. It helps me keep track of my medication, something I struggle with.

Technology is a wonderful thing in many ways, and I look forward to watching assistive technology become more accessible and affordable. This movie presents a very realistic look at that: both at the advantages and at things which could result in problems. 

The female characters, particularly the daughter, sometimes teeter on the edge of stereotypes (the daughter is a fairly stereotypical Free Spirited Liberal, right down to her tone of voice), however the emotions ring very true regardless. It would be good to see more female characters that don’t rely on stereotypes, particularly in scifi where female representation has long been a huge problem. Still, I wholeheartedly recommend this movie–just make sure you have a box of tissues.

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