Set in a futuristic leafy New York suburb, we open with aging cat-burglar Frank (Langella) rifling through the drawers in a house at night, looking for anything worth stealing. When he comes across a picture of himself, Frank discovers that he is burglarizing his own home, and we realize that Frank is suffering from Alzheimer's. He no longer lives with his wife, and while his kids are concerned for his well-being, they have lives of their own; his daughter (Tyler) is working for a non-profit charity organisation abroad, and his son (Marsden) has his high-powered job and his own family to take care of. So Frank is gifted with a robot (voiced by Peter Saarsgard) to help him around the house, keep him healthy and keep him active. But it's not long before the old man realises the robot's full potential, and decides to use its considerable skills for some local robberies.
The movie takes in a lot of themes, including the importance of family, memory, livelihoods, modernisation, generational differences, friendships, and love; be it for someone - Frank has a crush on local librarian Jennifer (Sarandon) - or for something - Frank loves old books and the local library, but it's about to undergo a makeover, removing all of the books in favour of creating a cool place for kids to hang out in. Unfortunately, none of these themes are given much more than a passing glance, with a quick reference here and there to remind you that this was on the film-maker's mind. Robot and Frank suffers as a result of being too reminiscent of recent, better movies such as Amour and Moon.
It's also arguably too slight and too languid in its storytelling, but thankfully the story is being told by Langella on career-best form. Even when he's at his most frustrating and ignorant, he still manages to be hugely watchable and likable, and he is surrounded by a great supporting cast. As well at this, we're given a well-realised version of a possible future, and a late-in-the-game plot-revelation that will undoubtedly have you wiping away a tear or two. But all in all, Robot and Frank is an unforgettable performance housed in a mostly forgettable film.