In the summer of 2018, Amazon Prime Video released ‘Robot and Frank’, a romantic comedy by British screenwriter Will Sharpe about a lonely robot who falls in love with a human woman after he befriends her android daughter. The movie explores the differences between organic and inorganic – and how they affect the way we relate to one another – through a series of comic vignettes.
As a romantic comedy, there are a number of ways in which ‘Robot and Frank’ can be defined. For the sake of this article, we will focus on the question: “What is the best love scene in ‘Robot and Frank’?”
To get to the bottom of this, let’s take a peek at the movie and see if we can find some clues as to what makes the love scenes in ‘Robot and Frank’ so special.
A Romantic Comedy About Inorganic And Organic Love
The movie opens with an extended sequence in which our protagonist, Frank, struggles to make friends after emerging from an industrial robot factory where he was cloned and then hastily programmed to be a social liaison robot. After spending his first few months learning to interact with humans, Frank is deployed to a rural area where he meets and befriends a group of country bumpkins who also happen to be the star attraction at the local museum. This is where the story really starts to unfold, as the quirky characters at the museum provide the comedy and draw the audience into the novel.
Through a series of humorous adventures, Frank learns to value and consider the opinions of others, and how to respond with sensitivity and compassion when dealing with the opposite sex – all skills which he puts into practice as he navigates the dating world.
Classic British Humor
While British humor can be found in many different situations and venues, it usually involves the observation of trivial or mundane matters which provide humorous contrast to the serious or even tragic events which make up a person’s daily routine. In this regard, it is similar to American humor which provides comedic relief through the comparison of the mundane to the extraordinary.
One of the most prominent examples of British humor in ‘Robot and Frank’ is the portrayal of the museum’s curator, Helen. Although she is not the most sophisticated woman on the planet, being a romantic neophyte barely a decade older than Frank, her character represents the quintessential English wit and wisdom often found in historical films and sitcoms about the quaint rural ways of the 1960s.
Alongside Helen, there are a host of other colorful, eccentric curators, zoologists, anthropologists, and archeologists all of whom provide comic relief in their own unique ways. Together, they make up the museum’s “Royal Society”, and they’re all portrayed with great affection and respect by celebrated British actor Roger Rees (best known for his role as Dr. No in the Sherlock Holmes series).
Even Frank’s interactions with the other machines in the factory, which are all essentially androids created according to the same design created for him, provide a backdrop for humor. Frank’s journey to discover his true identity provides unique insight into the nature of love and what it means to be human, and the film asks the question: “Can a robot feel sympathy for another human?”
The movie also features an unlikely friendship between Frank and a giant metal octopus – one of the more bizarre and wonderful creatures created by the brilliant computer animator Richard Starkings (known for his work on Monty Python, and many other beloved BBC series).
A Film Full of Cinematic Techniques
Besides featuring some of the most famous faces in British television, ‘Robot and Frank’ also showcases some of the most innovative visual effects and computer generated imagery (CGI) that has ever been seen on the big screen. In the previous section, we discussed how the unique style of British humor is generally represented in scenes which involve comparing the ordinary to the extraordinary, and this is also true of the movie’s special effects. For example, as we have seen, the robot factory where Frank is cloned is compared to a natural world which is inorganic and stark compared to the organic environments in which the rest of the characters live.
The film takes full advantage of the wonders of Photoshop and other image editing software which allow its creative team to take still photographs and turn them into believable, animated sequences. This is the type of film which demands to be seen on the big screen in order to fully appreciate its special effects.
Themes Of Compassion, Love, And Humanism
‘Robot and Frank’ prominently features themes of compassion, love, and humanism, further underscoring its comedic and romantic nature. The leading man, Frank, struggles to find his place in the world and to understand the meaning of love and friendship – at least as he defines them. He discovers the error of his ways, and he struggles to become a better man, someone who is more in line with the values of the Romantic poets, which Helen, his soon-to-be fiancee, quotes frequently throughout the film.
The country museum where Frank first comes across the curators is a microcosm of an English village, complete with its church, school, and cricket green. Even the names of the places where Frank learns to value and apply the lessons which he has learned about friendship and love provide further poetic allusions to the Romantic poets: St. Boniface Church is named after the patron saint of Germany, and Felicity Park is modeled after William Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodil Meadow’.
The film’s climax finds Frank attending a ball where he is forced to don the garb of a gentlemen (complete with tails) as he attempts to navigate the social mores of the era. During the course of the evening, he finds that imitation can sometimes be the best means of flattery, and he does his best to convince the curators, with whom he now shares an unlikely kinship, to bestow him with the honorary title of squire.
Ultimately, the film’s most powerful scene finds Frank teaching the curators how to value and respect their own species and to appreciate the unique qualities of a human being – qualities which, until that point, they had denied themselves.
When asked about the “best” love scene in ‘Robot and Frank’, Sharpe replied: “I suppose the best scene is the one where the robot finally accepts the fact that he is, in fact, not made of metal – and that there are some things worth preserving in this world. The final scene with Roger Rees and Emma Fielding is a wonderful culmination of everything that’s gone before, and I think it’s the best scene in the movie. It’s a quiet moment, but it’s an extraordinarily powerful one. I’d like to think that anyone who watches the film will feel that they’ve witnessed something special.”