Angela Aris

Warning: This review contains spoilers!

Robot Dreams is unlike other films at Somerville this year, it is an animated film, relatively short, spanning only ninety minutes, and is dialogue-free. Robot Dreams relies on the expressive noises of its animal characters—dogs, birds—and music, which is intimated by character ‘Robot’ and the soundtrack. Dog, (yes, the dog’s name is ‘Dog,’ and the robot’s name is Robot) orders Robot online after seeing a late night advertisement for lonely animals on TV. Dog assembles Robot in his living room and he rouses to consciousness. The two instantly become best friends, their budding love elucidated in a montage of epic proportions.

Robot learns through mimicry, and upon ‘powering on’ first sees Dog’s trademark smile—a thin line in the shape of a slightly-flattened ‘U’. Exchanging this smile becomes the primary means of communication throughout the film: Dog smiles at Robot, Robot smiles back, each new smile echoing the reassurance of all the smiles that came before. The other gesture Robot learns is the ‘sideways glance.’ Dog teaches Robot to roll his pupils to one side as a communication tool that has multiple meanings, for example “Look over there!” and “Go on, you can do it.” The sideways glance is also a tactful diegetic move because it allows us, the audience, to understand where Robot’s mind is at.

The pastel palette, inclusion of the song ‘September’ by Earth, Wind, & Fire, minimalist animation style, and sunny settings of Central Park and Ocean Beach, are elements that enhance—as well as help offset—the tragedy of Robot and Dog’s separation. Robot Dreams is suitable for all ages because this heart wrenching depiction of heartbreak is non-descriptive. Those who have experienced the loss of mature romantic love, a beloved pet, or best-friend, will all find meaning in Dog and Robot’s parting. The non-descriptive nature of this relationship between canine and machine, lends the film a palpable innocence. Robot Dreams points to the innocence within all of us, and I think it is this pointing that elicits emotions from its audience so swiftly. I found myself tearing up without warning, and laughing-out-loud so suddenly that I became self-conscious.

Robot Dreams touches on important themes such as robot rights, loneliness in the modern era, bureaucracy, and the consequences of modernity isolating us from the natural environment, but at no time are these themes thrust upon viewers in an oppressive or overwhelming way; themes are gestured to in the same way Dog gestures towards Robot, and Robot gestures back—with great consideration of the receiver.

4/5 Pelicans.

By Pelican Magazine

Pelican is one of the oldest student publications in Australia and the only independent paper at UWA. If you enjoy writing, then Pelican is the place for you! We print six themed issues a year, and run a stream of online content.

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