Robot Dreams uses a dog-and-robot bestie duo to tell a relatable human tale of loneliness and friendship. The animated feature comes from director Pablo Berger and Arcadia Motion Pictures. It draws inspiration from the graphic novel of the same name by Sara Varon.

Robot Dreams introduces us to Dog, who lives alone in Manhattan. As Dog people-watches in his neighborhood, he wistfully observes the happiness of others all around him. Couples, friends, families, all spending time and sharing their joy together. Clearly, Dog’s not just alone – he’s lonely. Then, Dog sees an ad on TV that changes everything. Soon, he’s ordered his very own Robot companion. 

As soon as Dog assembles and boots up Robot, the duo become fast friends. They’re inseparable, whether they’re heading out to enjoy all NYC has to offer or just having a quiet night at home. 

One day at the end of the summer, Dog and Robot hop on the bus and head to the beach. They’re having fun together like always when things take a turn: Robot malfunctions. Unable to move Robot from the sand, Dog is forced to head home alone to gather the tools needed to fix his friend. But when tomorrow comes, Dog finds the beach closed. It’s the end of the season, and thanks to a locked fence and an unrelenting guard, Dog can’t get back to Robot with his tools. The new best friends will have to spend the entire off season apart.

Dog returns home to his newly empty apartment and carefully notes down when the beach reopens. As months pass, he tries to find new ways to fix his loneliness and fill the void left by Robot. Meanwhile, Robot lies on the beach, unable to move as the seasons change, dreaming of rescue and reunion with Dog.

Robot Dreams takes the world of Varon’s graphic novels to heart, spinning out a wonderful New York City environment full of anthropomorphic animal pals. The attention to detail in creating this animated world is top-notch. This is the kind of movie you’ll want to rewatch, just to catch all the little background details you missed the first time while focusing on the main characters and story. 

The setting and animation design make for a compelling aesthetic, but they prove functional, too. Robot Dreams doesn’t have any dialogue; with the exception of the lyrics to “September” by Earth Wind and Fire that plays a central role in the film, the movie tells its story without words. So, each moment demonstrates careful crafting to ensure the audience stays with the story and the emotions of the characters.

At the heart of it all, the friendship between Dog and Robot shines. Robot Dreams definitely knows how to pull human emotion from its non-human characters. If you’ve ever lacked a close relationship with another person, or ever felt alone even while surrounded by others, you’ll easily relate to Dog. He just wants someone to care about and enjoy life with. (And don’t we all?) As he puts himself out there in the world trying to find new connections, you’ll cheer him on every step of the way. The film feels genuine in its emotions, without coming across as overdone or schmaltzy. It probably won’t turn you into a sobbing mess in the theater, but the pull of the bittersweet ending will tug on your heartstrings.

Robot Dreams premieres in New York theaters May 31 and in Los Angeles June 7. It will expand to further theatrical markets in June.