What’s most unique about Robot & Frank isn’t the stellar cast of Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, and James Marsden, or that the emotionally adept and layered story is the first feature from the Brooklyn-based Waverley Films founders Jake Schreier and Christopher Ford—it’s that the tale of an old, senile crook and his robot helper takes place in the near-future. With the speed of technological advancement picking up at what feels like a quarterly rate these days, the “near-future” sub-genre is on the verge of a quiet boom in popularity, like sci-fi literature over the late 1950s and early 1960s or the wide variety of sci-fi films throughout the 1980s. It should be noted that the SyFy (it’s like Sci-Fi, only easier to Tweet!) Network ordered more pilots this year than any other television network and a number of other new television series are tackling “near-future” themes—in short, a number of top media players are banking on down-to-earth storylines colored with futuristic elements.
However, the “near-future” is rarely pulled-off when it comes to film—though when it is successful, it is rarely short of spectacular, epic or worth watching for years in the future. The remarkable Children of Men first comes to mind, or the slightly-dated but nevertheless classic Gattaca or Blade Runner of decades past. Robot & Frank is one of these types of films but on a stripped-down, Indie budget, serving to make the story, direction and performances well thought-out and executed.
Schreier and Ford took a moment to talk to me about what could be this year’s indie sleeper and their thoughts on the near-future.