Friday, March 21, 2014
Movie Review - Robot and Frank
Robot and Frank is an intriguing film, funny and sad all at the same time. Frank Langella portrays an aging man with memory loss who in his younger days was a jewel thief. When it becomes clear that Frank is not doing well at meeting his daily needs, his adult son, Hunter, (James Marsden) gets his father a robot butler to help out. The robot tries to get Frank to work on a garden, suggesting Frank needs structure and that a project will help improve Frank's cognitive ability. Frank has other ideas, enlisting his new robot friend to help him in a jewel heist. There's a great trailer clip of it here.
The relationship between Frank and the robot is the heart of this story...but the subtext is clear, without beating the viewer over the head. What is the responsibility of families for those who face the personality crippling disorder of dementia? In what ways might technology help ease the burden of caring for this rapidly growing population?
Susan Sarandon does a great job as the local librarian who has a special relationship with Frank. Liv Tyler has a supporting role as the daughter. The disconnect and disagreement between the son and the daughter in this film was played lightly, but in real life those sorts of tensions can play hell in families.
The movie was very worth watching...it's one I would not mind seeing again.
The bigger context, however, is one I only wish we could all escape. We can't.
In a national study, "the prevalence of dementia among individuals aged 71 and older was 13.9%, comprising abut 3.4 million individuals in the USA in 2002".
How our whole culture addresses the need for care for the many millions of people who will face this is yet to be adequately addressed. Another report claims that one in three older adults die with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.
As our population continues to live longer, how we deal with this growing problem will define who we are as individuals, families and as a nation.
Mahatma Ghandi (and several others) have been quoted as saying a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. Sadly, when dementia robs you of someone you love but leaves a shell of that person behind who still needs care, it is no longer a matter of esoteric philosophy or even public policy. Deciding what you can and cannot do on a day to day basis to be there for that person can be one of the most brutal life experiences possible.
While technology may provide some innovative assistance to how we address the demands of caregiving, no robot will ever be able to fully take away the sting.