Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'.

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'. Photo: Bteam Pictures.

In theaters on Friday May 31st, ‘Robot Dreams’, which was nominated for this year’s Oscars and has scooped up a lot of other awards, proves every inch the trophy-worthy delight.

Director Pablo Berger, who previously worked on movies such as ‘Torremolinos 73’ and ‘Abracadabra’ delivers something truly special –– all without a word of dialogue from its main characters.

Is ‘Robot Dreams’ Worth Activating?

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'.

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'. Photo: Bteam Pictures.

Adapting a graphic novel about a friendship between a dog and a robot that faces the ultimate test –– all told wordlessly –– sounds like a hefty challenge for any filmmaker. Yet Pablo Berger has not only attempted it, but he’s also crushed it and the results (even without speech) speak for themselves.

This is a completely charming visual and musical feast, bursting with inspiration and imagination. And in an era where even giant budgets and long development processes don’t deliver movies that are full of real emotion, it’s a real pleasure to find something that truly lives up to the hype –– and deserves your big screen attention (the robot character even breaks out of the screen at one point in a beautifully meta moment).

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‘Robot Dreams’: Script and Direction

'Robot Dreams' director Pablo Berger.

'Robot Dreams' director Pablo Berger. Photo: Daniel ALEA.

Berger here bases his script on Sara Varon’s 2007 graphic novel, which re-imagined New York as an animal-filled metropolis deep in the 1980s. We’re introduced to Dog (Ivan Labanda), who spends his days in a mundane routine of quiet nights at home eating microwave mac and cheese in front of the TV or playing Pong (kids, ask your… grandparents?)

Tired of being alone (as he sees couples and friends enjoying themselves on the street or in opposing windows from his apartment building), he sends away for a kit to build himself a robotic buddy (also Labanda). Once constructed (our hero is a smart hound with a knack for electronics), his robot quickly becomes his best friend.

Figuring out their dynamic in the midst of a sweaty, sunny, NYC summer, they take in the park, much on hot dogs and head to the amusement park at Ocean Beach. But it’s there where disaster strikes –– the robot becomes rusty after time in the sea, and his power runs down. Dog is forced to abandon him as the beach closes for the fall/winter season, but swears he’ll be back. Just one problem –– when he returns the following June, robot is gone, only one leg left behind.

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'.

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'. Photo: Bteam Pictures.

It’s a heartbreaking story of love and loss, and doesn’t opt for a simple narrative, instead spinning the pair off into their own adventures, Robot imagining he’s being rescued and Dog moving on to pastures new. All along, Berger’s clever writing keeps you feeling for the main duo and appreciating clever touches all over the place. This boasts the same level of innovation as classic Pixar or Disney movies, wonderfully thought out.

And his direction is just as effective, the imagined world of New York brought to vivid life, every decision made smartly. When Berger sends Robot off on his flights of fantasy (including one that references a very famous tale of someone whisked off to a new world, and blends that with New York streets to impressive effect).

Musically, the movie is just as impressive, with Earth Wind & Fire’s 1970s hit ‘September’ utilized as a running motif through the story. And that’s just one of the songs dotting the film.

‘Robot Dreams’: Performances

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'.

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'. Photo: Bteam Pictures.

As mentioned, the cast don’t specifically voice their characters –– though they do provide plenty of evocative sounds, grunts and other noises. Working in concert with their director, they really make you care for these characters and worry about what might happen to them, particularly Robot.

There are so many characters who make an impact here, from the gruff scrap metal merchant (and his candy-obsessed child) to the snarky, impatient anteaters that Dog attempts to befriend at one point yet turn out to be terrible people to spend time with.

‘Robot Dreams’: Final Thoughts

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'.

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'. Photo: Bteam Pictures.

Original, clever and full of heart, ‘Robot Dreams’ has already seen its share of acclaim, but it definitely deserves a spot on your family’s Must-See list. It’ll entertain audiences of all ages, and certainly never proves to be a chore for parents bringing kids. Smaller tykes may not respond to the dialogue-free flow, but they’re still likely to be captivated by the expressive characters and fun moments.

It is always a pleasure to find something like this, which is immersive and impressive in equal measure. And in a world where actually original stories are few and far between, it’s even more welcome.

Berger’s film is a minor miracle, and you won’t regret checking it out. If you’re sick of endless sequels, animated and otherwise, do not sleep on ‘Robot Dreams’.

‘Robot Dreams’ receives 9 out of 10 stars.

Robot Dreams

Robot Dreams

81
NR1 hr 42 minOct 21st, 2023
Showtimes & Tickets

Dog lives in Manhattan and he's tired of being alone. One day he decides to build himself a robot, a companion. Their friendship blossoms, until they become inseparable,... Read the Plot

What’s the story of ‘Robot Dreams’?

‘Robot Dreams’ focuses on Dog, who lives in Manhattan and he’s tired of being alone. One day he decides to build himself a robot, a companion. Their friendship blossoms, until they become inseparable, to the rhythm of 80’s NYC.

One summer night, Dog, with great sadness, is forced to abandon Robot at the beach.

Will they ever meet again?

Who provides the voices in ‘Robot Dreams’?

Though there isn’t traditional dialogue from the characters (though plenty of music to help the mood), the voice cast for the movie includes Ivan Labanda, Albert Trifol Segarra, Rafa Calvo, José García Tos, José Luis Mediavilla, Graciela Molina and Esther Solans.

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'.

Director Pablo Berger's 'Robot Dreams'. Photo: Bteam Pictures.

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