Set in upstate New York in the ambiguous “near future,” Jake Schreier’s Robot and Frank is a melting pot of 22nd-century perplexities. Frank Langella plays an eponymous retired jewel thief who lives on his own in a grumpy and increasingly dementia-riddled existence. His son Hunter (James Marsden) gives Frank a robot in an effort to keep his father’s life in order and to give himself a chance to spend less time with his dad. Frank initially despises the bot, but eventually the machine becomes not only his pal but an accomplice in one last small-scale heist (as long as Frank agrees to a low-sodium diet).
The target in question is yuppie library employee Jake (Jeremy Strong), cast as the film’s tablet-toting villain and the antithesis of his lovely employer Jennifer (Susan Sarandon), the object of Frank’s affections. The library’s embrace of digital scans instead of printed material is one of many serious issues the films appears to juggle in a surprisingly lighthearted fashion. The concepts of augmented reality, parental relationships and the philosophy of a robot’s very existence are all touched upon in a manner suited to a story that does its best to tie the plotline’s threads together, with questionable results. “I don’t want to talk about how you don’t exist,” Frank tells the robot. “It’s making me uncomfortable.”