Robot Dreams Review

In Pablo Berger’s Robot Dreams, a lonely dog and a robot form an unbreakable bond that teaches them about love and the unknown.

PLOT: Desperate for companionship in the City That Never Sleeps, DOG builds ROBOT, a friend he can grow old with. When ROBOT becomes stranded on Playland Park beach, the couple waits and dreams about their anticipated reunion in unison. As days turn to months, DOG and ROBOT experience separate adventures, changing who they are. When they reunite, will they be the same?

REVIEW: I moved from New York to Canada seven years ago this March. Since the life-altering trip across the border to my new home, I’ve only been back to the Big Apple three times. Of the few things, other than loved ones, that I left behind, New York City shines the brightest, like the Swarovski star atop the Rockafeller Center Christmas Tree. I often dream about returning, and thanks to director/writer Pablo Berger’s Robot Dreams, I felt what it was like to be back home and had my spirits lifted along the way.

Written by Pablo Berger and Sara Varon, Robot Dreams begins with DOG, a lonely canine living in Manhattan’s East Village. Spending his nights playing solo Pong games on an Atari 2600 and watching MTV until infomercials advertising spray-on hair lull him to sleep, DOG can’t help but long for something more. He wants a friend, someone he can eat Sabrett hot dogs with while touring Central Park or dance with until his hind paws hurt. One day, DOG builds a robot, a companion, someone to roller skate with and take to the amusement park. As their friendship blooms, DOG and ROBOT become inseparable. That was until, on a warm summer night in the 1980s, DOG had to abandon ROBOT on the beach at Playland Park. With the park closed until June 1st, DOG has no choice but to pass the time until he and ROBOT can be reunited. Until that day comes, they can each have an adventure and see each other in their dreams.

Robot Dreams, Pablo Berger, Sara Varon, NEON, review

I’d like to know if NEON researched me before sending the offer to review Robot Dreams. I say this because I know I’m JoBlo’s “animation expert,” but it’s almost as if Robot Dreams was made for me specifically. I’m a mark for New York City iconography. I grew up there and remember just as many days of exploring the Concrete Jungle as I do swimming in the Long Island Sound. Arcadia Motion Pictures brings Robot Dreams to life through breathtaking 2D animation, a rare and underutilized art form since Pixar‘s Toy Story made CGI animation the gold standard. Summoning every color in the visible spectrum, Robot Dreams presents a Zootopia-like metropolis populated by anthropomorphic animals. The variety of citizens traversing the Center of the Universe is astounding, highlighting the city’s ability to be a melting pot of humanity. Animality? You know what I mean.

For this New Yorker, there’s nothing more tiring than seeing Hollywood visit the same sites while filming in New York City. Specific locations are iconic for a reason, and I get that. Still, you can’t capture the feeling of visiting the five boroughs without venturing to places people who live there love to frequent, including The Strand bookstore, Playland Park, Greenwich Village, the Flat Iron Building, and the peppering of history-making concert venues like Webster Hall, Knitting Factory, and Save the Robots. Berger’s film cradles the heart of the City That Never Sleeps and brings it to life with vibrant colors, walking pedestrian urgency, and an unabashed sense of pride.

Fueling DOG and ROBOT’s emotional journey is a spirited soundtrack by Alfonso de Vilallonga. Alongside smatterings of 80s-inspired funk, playful piano, and city sounds, Robot Dreams cuts loose with a collection of licensed music that will have you clearing space for a dance party. As I followed DOG and ROBOT throughout the city, artists such as Earth, Wind, & Fire, Buck Owens, The Feelies, Booker T. & The M.G.’s, and William Bell filled the air with energy and hypnotic rhythm.

One of the crowning elements of Robot Dreams is the mirroring of DOG and ROBOT’s emotional states and simultaneous dreaming of one another. Before ROBOT became stranded on the beach, DOG and the automaton forged a bond held together by emotional intimacy. They’re not dating. They’re not sleeping together. However, they often join hands and are unafraid to show others their dedication toward one another. These details make their union multifaceted, so their relationship could represent a dating partnership, adding layers to their intimacy. Their closeness makes the dreams they experience throughout the film all the more powerful.

Regarding dreams, Berger’s film becomes surreal by presenting multiple scenarios in which a DOG and ROBOT reunite. How Berger and Varon pull the curtain back to reveal you’ve been experiencing a lie is clever and challenging to track. The execution left me with questions about everything I experienced, distorting my sense of time and place, as anticipating an event can often do to someone as impatient as I can become.

While Robot Dreams explores loneliness, togetherness, and relationship ideals, it’s also a story about moving on. Life comprises multiple chapters, and learning to embrace change is part of the journey. Without spoiling the ending, Robot Dreams delicately teaches you a valuable lesson about letting go and that finding happiness in something new is okay. Friendships can sometimes be a revolving door, and it’s better to make peace with the unknown than cling to the past.

As I’ve said, NEON could not have found a better mark to review Robot Dreams. In the 1980s, I witnessed buskers play bucket drums in Penn Station like Tool’s Danny Carrey, if he were an octopus. I flew a white Gayla Bat Kite in Central Park with my father. After riding the Cyclone roller coaster, Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island was a regular pitstop. Robot Dreams is a love letter to New York City and on longing and transformative relationships. The film is as close to perfection as I’ve known in my 43 years as an animation-loving New York native. I’ll talk about this movie for the rest of the year, maybe forever.

Robot Dreams

PERFECTO-MUNDO

10

Source: JoBlo

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.