13 April 2024
Robot Dreams, an Oscar nominated animation watch UK Trailer

Film Review – Robot Dreams (2023)

Read our review of Robot Dreams coming UK Cinemas 22nd March
Jimmy Kimmel and his scriptwriters hardly covered themselves with glory at the Oscars. Robert Downey Jnr was unimpressed by the gags that came his way, but worse was to come when that old chestnut about animation being just for kids raised its head. Again. If the host and his crew haven’t got the message yet – Chris Miller summed it up when he Tweeted “Animation is not just a genre for children. It is a medium for people and that medium is film.” – all they have to do is watch one of this year’s nominees, Robot Dreams.

While the simplicity and clean lines of its animation initially look childlike, what soon becomes apparent is that the film exemplifies what Miller was talking about. Set in a 1980’s New York populated by animals, it introduces us to the solitary world of Dog. In need of a friend, he buys a DIY robot kit and, once assembled, the two become inseparable, but a trip to the beach ends with Robot rusting in the sand and, by the time Dog returns to save him, the beach is closed for the summer. Over the months that follow, Dog goes skiing while Robot ends up in a junkyard where he’s eventually re-built by a young raccoon. Distraught to find his friend has gone when he returns to the beach, Dog purchases another mechanical companion and some months later Robot sees the two on the streets of Manhattan.

Included on Variety’s list of 22 Most Overlooked Films of 2023 alongside the taut Reality, Paul Schrader’s Master Gardener and joyous British rom-com, Rye Lane, it’s a multi-layered, bittersweet ode to memory and love in its many forms. Youngsters will adore its physical comedy, vibrant colours and multitude of animals. The love and care lavished on them is obvious from the outset, but there is even more underneath. For Spanish director, Pablo Berger, it’s his personal love letter to the New York he remembers from his early filmmaking days. It also reflects his lifelong obsession with movies: references to other films abound, from a Bond-esque skiing sequence to Robot’s Starman-like curiosity on his first walk around Manhattan. Even Berger’s favourite song, Earth Wind And Fire’s September, has its place, reinforcing that recurring theme of the importance of memory.

It’s also a film with no dialogue. That’s not to say it’s a silent movie: aside from the music, there’s a soundscape to give depth to what we see on screen, but the characters never actually exchange words. Nor do they need to, because their gestures and expressions speak volumes in their simplicity and change what starts out as a tweak to your heart into a full blown squeeze. Love and memory are at its core, but so is learning to let go and the film builds up to its ending like a romance – and will probably break your heart more than many classic tearjerkers.

The Oscar for Best Animated Feature didn’t come its way – the combination of fierce competition and a late March release date which stalled momentum – but Robot Dreams is still one of the year’s very best animations. More importantly, it genuinely is for anybody and everybody. And few films can truthfully say that.

★★★★

In UK cinemas March 22nd / Ivan Labanda, Albert Trifol Segarra, Rafa Calvo, Jose Garcia Tos, Jose Luis Mediavilla, Graciela Molina, Esther Solans / Dir: Pablo Berger / Curzon Film / PG


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