“Robot Dreams” Redefines Classic in Powerful Animated Tale of Friendship


In the eclectic world of cinematography, an unexpected truth is revealed: a song like Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September”, despite being used in countless films, is completely redefined when set as the backdrop to an unusual animated tale of friendship between a dog and a robot.

“Robot Dreams”, a saga audaciously composed without dialogue, spins its narrative thread through music, expertly crafting a delightful yet subtly existential atmosphere that envelopes the audience. Pablo Berger’s film, a whimsical 1980’s fable set in New York, embraces the Earth, Wind & Fire classic not just for a single scene or two. Instead, it serves as the harmonious refrain underlying the unique bond shared by its protagonists, Dog and Robot, resurfacing whenever they are reminded of one another.

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The film almost palpably pulses with the poignant melancholy and exuberant joy evoked by the disco classic. Emanating a heartfelt, nostalgic resonance, the movie, like a cherished pop song, delves into profound depths without uttering a word.

Perhaps remembering plays a pivotal role in appreciating this film. The reel of “Robot Dreams” first unspooled before my eyes at the Cannes Film Festival over a year ago. It garnered an Oscar nomination for best-animated film and, only now, much later than expected, is it being introduced to North American audiences.

Demonstrating an unconventional release pattern, “Robot Dreams” similarly journeys from the pages of Sara Varon’s 2007 graphic novel to the screen in a unique fashion. It genuinely appeals to all age groups, enticing children with its inviting narrative and charming older viewers with the maturity of its depiction of relationships.

Dog, a somewhat lonely New Yorker residing in the East Village, is introduced at the outset. One evening, as he prepares a microwave dinner, an advertisement inspires him to purchase the Amica 2000. Upon assembly, the robot springs to life, grinning at his newfound friend.

Together, Dog and Robot navigate their vibrant, pointillist-rendered New York City, from hopping subway turnstiles to rollerblading in Central Park, accompanied by the familiar strains of their soundtrack, “September”. However, their blissful time together is abruptly cut short as the Robot’s adventurous nature lands him in a predicament. After a frolicking session in the water at Playland, the Robot becomes immobile, unable to move due to rusting.

Despite his best efforts, Dog cannot help but leave his friend behind as the beach world they once shared together transitions into autumn. As time slips away and the seasons change, Robot is left to sleep through the winter, dreamily awaiting his friend’s return, while Dog must move forward, seeking new acquaintances.

The dreams are infused with surrealism and fears of abandonment, yet they gradually give way to new experiences and friendships. The narrative takes a tender turn as it elegantly explores the complexities of moving on while cherishing shared memories—lessons that are sure to resonate with viewers of all ages.

Time and nostalgia play significant roles in “Robot Dreams”. This film, directed by the accomplished Spanish filmmaker, Pablo Berger, known for his silent black-and-white film “Blancanieves”, lends a sense of poignancy by incorporating elements of the past that resonates with a significant audience. Traces of bygone eras, Atari and Tab soda, paired with the looming representation of the Twin Towers, evoke bittersweet memories of people and times that may have drifted away, mirroring the film’s core message.

“Robot Dreams” might, on the surface, appear to be a simple animated tale revolving around a Dog and Robot. Yet it digs deeper, resonating with viewers while elegantly invoking the sentiment echoed in the song, “September”: “Only blue talk and love, remember/ The true love we share today.”

“Robot Dreams” is a Neon release, bestowed with a run time of 102 minutes, and suitable for all audiences. It deserves a well-earned three and a half stars out of four. This beautifully crafted film is sure to leave the audience thoughtfully contemplating the complexities of relationships and the persistence of memory, all set to the iconic backdrop of the Earth, Wind & Fire classic, “September”.