Director – Pablo Berger – 2023 – Spain – Cert. U tbc– 102m
In need of a companion, Dog builds Robot – but then, disaster strikes – charming, dialogue-free 2D animation plays the 2023 London Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, October 4th until Sunday, October 15th, and will be out in UK cinemas sometime in the new year
The 1980s. Brooklyn. The East Village. Bored with endless, cook from frozen macaroni cheese meals from the fridge and channel hopping or playing both parts of computerised table tennis against himself, Dog longs for a companion. To this end, he buys a DIY self-assembly kit from which he builds Robot. For a short period, the pair are inseparable, walking and eating hot dogs together in Central Park, but then disaster strikes after Robot swims in the sea when the pair visit the beach. When it’s time to go home, his battery power is depleted and he can’t move.
So Dog has to leave incapacitated Robot there. He buys books on robots from the local bookstore to work out how to repair his friend. Alas, on arrival at the beach, he discovers it’s closed since yesterday was the last day of the Summer season. A less than sympathetic cop won’t listen to his entreaties and sends him packing; Dog later returns with bolt cutters and removed the chain and padlock preventing entry, but is apprehended by the unsympathetic policeman before he can rescue Robot.
All he can do is put a note on the calendar to rescue Robot the first day the beach is open next season. Can the immobilised Robot survive that long against the elements or whatever else a year on the beach might throw at him? Can the lonely Dog last that long without a friend with whom to share everything?
Separated from one another, Dog and Robot each undergo their own series of adventures. In Robot’s case, as per the title, some of these are dreams of how he imagines events will play out while others are the way events actually play out, which generally have much worse outcomes.
Dog, meanwhile, meets Duck Girl in the park whilst struggling to get his new kite to fly; but in time that friendship doesn’t work out. Robot is eventually taken by scavengers to a scrapyard, then he is accidentally split into several parts, only to be purchased by Rascal Racoon and reassembled.
By the end of the tale, Dog has purchased a new Robot who is now his friend, while Rascal and Robot are friends. The script cleverly pitches itself so that it reads one way for children and another for adults. Both age groups will be enchanted.
The movie is inspired by the work of graphic novelist Sara Varon whose comics are populated with non-gender-specific characters and provides a welcome change from the rapid fire kiddie fodder so often churned out by Hollywood. A real gem.
On Sunday, October 8th and Sunday, October 15th, Robot Dreams plays the 2023 London Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, October 4th until Sunday, October 15th, and will be out in cinemas in the UK sometime in the new year.
London Film Festival
Annecy – Grand Prix winner.