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Written By:

Sol Harris

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Robot Dreams is set in a world of anthropomorphised animals who have apparently mastered robotics. Robots are a common everyday appliance for them and, despite everything just said, it’s also apparently set in 1980s New York. 

Dog, our protagonist (who is also a dog), is cripplingly lonely. That all changes when he buys a robot companion. Robot and Dog immediately become best friends – possibly more (the film is extremely ambiguous about whether their dynamic is platonic or runs deeper). 

It’s always a joy when we’re given the rare gift of a hand-drawn animated feature in cinemas, and Robot Dreams doesn’t disappoint. While visually simplistic, it’s a bright, bold and colourful affair that showcases some great character designs. The animation is tasked with doing a lot of heavy lifting given that, except for the odd stray word mumbled in the background and the repeated leitmotif of Earth, Wind & Fire’s September, the film is completely non-dialogue. 

Eventually, Robot and Dog are separated due to circumstances beyond their control, and the rest of the film largely concerns their attempts to reconnect. Physically unable to move for much of this time, Robot indulges in dreams, repeatedly imagining various means of going home to Dog. While it’s important to see them longing to be reunited, the sequences largely feel like arbitrary filler (at 1 hour and 42 minutes, Robot Dreams is on the longer side for animation and definitely didn’t need padding to bring it up to feature length).

But once the film focuses on its narrative and stops spending so much time on these titular robot dreams, it really kicks into gear. The story builds to a truly poignant ending, far more subtle, mature and emotionally powerful than you’d likely expect from an animated family film about a dog hanging out with a robot. Robot Dreams concludes as something painfully bittersweet and universally relatable. On some level, it should resonate with everyone who sees it.


ROBOT DREAMS is in cinemas now.

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