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Review: Robot Dreams. A bittersweet tale for deeply intense people

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Pablo Berger.
  • Producers: Pablo Berger, Ibon Cormenzana, Ángel Durández, Ignasi Estapé and Jérôme Vidal.
  • Screenplay by: Pablo Berger.
  • Art Director: José Luis Ágreda.
  • Music by: Alfonso de Vilallonga.

Synopsis: a lonely dog buys a robot friend, but destiny decides to keep them apart.

Shotgun Commentary: (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009) featuring robots and animals.

Robot and Dog at the beach. Source: Robot Dreams (Pablo Berger, 2023).
© ELLE DRIVER SAS. All Rights Reserved

Review

Robot Dreams follows Dog, a dog who feels lonely and tries to remedy it by buying a robot friend, thus following the Spanish saying of “cómprate un amigo”, which translates as “buy yourself a friend”, in English. Their relationship burns bright until one day they go to the beach and are forced to part ways. From then on, destiny keeps them apart.

The drama…?

This tale is nice, not groundbreaking, but good. Its foundations a bit iffy. The friendship that kickstarts the whole narrative is around five minutes of montage where they do what feels like three things together with a famous song playing in the background. This premise would be enough had this been a short film. However, it is dragged out to feature film length, which makes the base not enough powerful to sustain the whole plot.

Robot and Dog walking in the snow. Source: Robot Dreams (Pablo Berger, 2023).
© ELLE DRIVER SAS. All Rights Reserved

That being said, the use of the already worn out “this happened, but not really”, among other drama-specific techniques, are powerful enough to make you think that the robot-dog relationship was way deeper than the one you actually watched. Manipulating your memory as the narrative flows to compensate for the lack of depth and intensity displayed at the beginning.

Frail substance

Frustrating cliché moments aside, the account itself is full of plot holes and ideas that go nowhere. There is a hint of environmental commentary shared through the animated settings. As well as an inkling of I, Robot (2004) vibes when the automaton sees another droid being abused.

However, both remain suggestions. They are but light commentaries that turn out to be completely irrelevant, like most of the situations during the second half of the movie. There is at least thirty minutes of fillers that drag out the suffering of the spectators without adding anything pertinent. This gives the impression of a duration being forced upon the feature, instead of the story value being prioritised.

Robot and Dog sitting in a bench, looking at the river. Source: Robot Dreams
(Pablo Berger, 2023). © ELLE DRIVER SAS. All Rights Reserved

As for the plot holes, there are many. Starting with the fact that there are a thousand ways for Dog to avoid being separated from the robot. Furthermore, one of those is used by other characters to access said machine. Additionally, there are many factors that could have been explored through the different anecdotes, such as where is the line between pure animal and humanoid animal, why can the animals scream but not talk, or why can the droid move his head but not his body.

The coup de grace

Instead, the stories are a conduit for stereotypical script arcs peppered up with some humour, cinematic references, and A LOT of product placement. Naranjito, Barcelona and Chupa Chups, are brands that could be understood in terms of promoting Spain, the country of production of the film, even though the movie itself is located in New York.

However, the amount of brand placement reaches ridiculous levels. Brands like Cheetos, Froot Loops, Coca-Cola or Hertz claim all the protagonism of the complex, multi-layered animation. The cheery style and curated scenery become background noise for the company logos. A terrible choice that disparages the work behind the animation for no other purpose than to advertise.

Cute additions

The animals that populate this fictional world are endearing and fun. Some make more sense than others in terms of their characteristics and what they use them for, and a few are references to classic child tales in a modern world. They don’t have much relevance in the action, but they add colour to the background of it, making the experience fuller and more engaging.

Robot and Dog walking around NY. Source: Robot Dreams (Pablo Berger, 2023).
© ELLE DRIVER SAS. All Rights Reserved

All in all, Robot Dreams is a depressing story with a bittersweet ending and a few too many logic gaps about friendship, longing and moving on.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Friends are sadly replaceable, always.
  • Some relationships don’t work, and that’s okay.
  • Sometimes you have to do instead of thinking about doing.
Robot and Dog taking pictures. Source: Robot Dreams (Pablo Berger, 2023).
© ELLE DRIVER SAS. All Rights Reserved

What’s your take? Have you watched Robot Dreams? Did it suck your soul or did it feed it? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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