Film Review: Robot Dreams is a gorgeous, wordless animated tale dipped in surreality and colourful psychedelics

Have you ever pondered what a robot would dream of?  Well, in Pablo Berger‘s gorgeous, wordless animated tale they dream in surreality and colourful psychedelics.  But in the case of Robot Dreams‘s protagonist, simply named Robot, he dreams of Dog, his owner and best friend, who he is cruelly separated from in a circumstantial situation out of both of their control.

Berger, who has experience within the silent film field, having directed the 2012 black-and-white drama Blancanieves, debuts in animation here with a canvas that’s impossibly gorgeous to look at, but is laced with a mentality that’s as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking; parents, I warn you, best bring a packet of tissues to this one, because the whole family is likely to need a healthy wipe when done.

The world created here is delightful, a swarming metropolis populated by anthropomorphic creatures, with the accumulated detail presenting a specific trace of New York City in the 1980s.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed by what Berger has created here, but it never deviates from the central relationship between Robot and Dog, the latter a lonely creature who buys and builds Robot as his best companion.  The two form a life together, so it’s all the more devastating when a trip to the beach unintentionally tears them apart; Dog, not realising the damage water can do to Robot, is forced to leave his buddy behind when he can’t physically pull him from the sand.

Berger’s script so regularly toys with our emotions – perhaps a few times too many – over the film’s 102 minutes, ultimately culminating in a story that’s less about hopeful reconciliation, but more a wise commentary on the passing of time and the oft-brutal realisation that nothing can last forever.

Robot Dreams is a deceptively simple film on its surface.  The animation may evoke imagery akin to a child’s colouring book, but the animators themselves have infused meticulous detail into these characters’ beings.  Without dialogue, their expressions and gestures are amplified, and our emotive state as viewers is heightened further as we have no choice but to pay attention to the film’s output of sentimentality.

An animated film that truly makes its audience feel something and commands a certain conversation around love and loss, Robot Dreams is a beautiful, intricate tale that creates a relatable, lived-in atmosphere despite its fantastical base.


Robot Dreams is now screening in Australian theatres.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.