Is there another film at TIFF this year that is as pure-hearted and fueled with love as Robot Dreams?
Set in 1980s New York City, Robot Dreams tells the story of Dog, a lonely pup who lives a quiet life alone. Then, while watching TV one night, he sees an ad for robot companions and he immediately springs into action. When Robot arrives, Dog quickly assembles him and finds an unexpected soulmate. However, after a day of underwater antics forces them to separate, the two yearn to reconnect and will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Featuring simple animation with clear lines and bright colors, Robot Dreams is a delightful journey that’s enjoyable for all ages. Directed by Pablo Berger, this is not a film which seeks to dazzle you with special effects or camera tricks. Instead, Dreams almost instantly connects with the viewer through its soul. Built by Dog to be his new companion, the love between Robot and his canine companion is palpable. This is a film that is virtually dialogue-free yet does not need long speeches to communicate the love between its characters. Robot and Dog genuinely care about each other’s well-being, communicating their affection with simple glances and holding of hands.
As a result, after Robot malfunctions on the beach, one can’t help but feel the burden of loss that dog experiences. As Robot and Dog yearn to find one another again, Dreams becomes a film about remembering what you once had and hoping to find it again in the future. Over time, their lives begin to change, forcing them to re-examine who they are as a result of the distance. (Perhaps the weight of this emotion may be best communicated with Berger’s use of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s song, September. Although we often associate the song with joyful exuberance, Dreams draws out the somber nature of its lyrics in ways that make it more meaningful than ever.)
Adorable and funny, Berger’s Robot Dreams is an unexpected gem that is bound to delight audiences. But beyond its endearing characters and animation, Berger has grander ideas in mind. To him, Dreams is an opportunity to explore the life that comes from genuine intimacy and the loss that can be experienced when those times are over.
Robot Dreams is now playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.