Star Rating:

Robot Dreams

Director: Pablo Berger

Release Date: Friday 22nd March 2024

Genre(s): Animation

Running time: 102 minutes

Dog lives alone in New York City in the late '80s, living a quiet and unremarkable life with few relationships or friendships. When Dog notices an advertisement for a robot friend, he promptly orders it and forms an instant friendship that is cut short when Robot is left stranded on a beach. Over the course of a year, Robot and Dog live out separate lives as one tries to return to the other, and dreams of their lives reunited...

It's a testament to the power of animation that 'Robot Dreams' has zero dialogue - save for some non-verbal sound effects from the various characters along the way - and yet, it communicates so much about friendship, compassion, loneliness, heartbreak, devotion, hope, and much more besides. It's tender without being insincere, joyful without being saccharine, and affecting without being overbearing. It's simple, but simple in a way that is elegant and artful. When compared with other animated movies from gigantic conglomerates with legions of animators and Oscar-winning talent stacked against it, 'Robot Dreams' has something they can never replicate - a soul.

There are comparisons to the likes of 'Wall-E', or the classic 'Futurama' episode 'Jurassic Bark', which ends on the heartbreaking tones of Connie Francis, but 'Robot Dreams' manages to somehow say more with less than either of these. Where 'Wall-E' roped in environmentalism, social decay, 'Robot Dreams' is more concerned with the intimate nature of human relationships - even if it is a dog and a robot at the centre of the story. There's a yearning that is riven through 'Robot Dreams' that is often heartbreaking, but it's never quite as insistent or present. Rather, it's understated and all the more powerful because of it.

Pablo Berger's knack for capturing the hipness of New York in the late '80s, not to mention the fact that it was populated by normal people, is apparent throughout. Some of the setups and framing shots are wonderfully staged, not to mention the fun and quirky character design for all the characters, be they front and centre or hanging out in the background. The fact that 'Robot Dreams' is dialogue-free means that your attention is entirely locked into what's on screen, and the animation is rendered in such a smooth and handmade way. More than that, the lack of dialogue gives a clarity to all of the rich emotions and textures in the story that would probably be lost with it.

As it's rated G and is perfectly fine for kids, yet it's the kind of movie that almost 90% of it would fly right over their heads. Sure, they'll be delighted with the bright colours, the funny-looking characters, but it's the adults sitting next to them that will be heaving their chest as it glides through its heartfelt and emotional story.