Finch Weinberg (Tom Hanks) is one of the few humans to survive the superstorms which have killed most life on Earth after a solar flare destroyed the ozone level. UV radiation and high temperatures make it dangerous to be outside.

A robotics engineer, Finch is the kind of person you would want in such a situation. In what’s left of St. Louis, he is systematically searching buildings for food, customizing an RV as an escape vehicle, and working on custom tools to help him survive. He already derives assistance from a four-wheeled silent robot named Dewey. (It would be a nice touch by the screenwriters if Dewey were named after one of the robots in Silent Running!)

Finch, Goodyear, and Jeff leave their shelter to hit the road.

Finch’s other companion is his dog Goodyear (Seamus). He’s the light and delight of his life as a playmate, a loyal friend, and a soul mate. Recognizing that Goodyear might survive him, Finch has built a robot (Caleb Landry Jones) to take care of him. He loads tons of data into his program and gives him four directives. The first one is “A robot cannot harm a human or, through inaction, allow a human to be harmed.” The fourth directive is: “In Finch’s absence, robot must protect the welfare of the dog. This directive supercedes all other directives.”

The robot learns to talk and walk and when another superstorm threatens to bury them for 40 days, Finch decides his little family needs to hit the road, heading West with the hope that the climate will be better on the other side of the mountains. After naming himself Jeff, the robot learns to drive the RV. His strength and versatility come in handy as they face peril after peril. But Finch also is determined that Jeff realizes that his chief purpose, the reason he was made, is to protect Goodyear. “I know you were born yesterday, but it’s time for you to grow up.”

On the road

So begins a series of life lessons (see Teaching Scene) — the kind many parents yearn to pass on to their children. It is a lark watching Jeff, the orange-headed droid, progress as he listens to Finch’s stories about living in the present moment, the importance of teamwork, developing trust with those nearest and dearest to you, and living with hope. Finch is an unusual family-centered road movie about vulnerability, survival, and most of all, love.

Going Deeper: Some of Our Favorite Robot Films

A.I. Artificial Intelligence: A complex, elusive, spellbinding, and visionary film that tutors us in the spiritual practice of ensouling the world of things in the name of love and through the faculty of our imagination.

A.X.L.: Intriguing sci-fi thriller that explores what can happen when robots become smarter than humans.

Bicentennial Man: A heart-warming story about a shiny household robot who is an exemplar of the spiritual practice of kindness.

Big Hero 6: A lively and creative animated film about a robot with heart, empathy, compassion, and gentleness.

The Iron Giant: An anti-guns parable about a giant robot and the boy who protects him.

Short Circuit: A very entertaining sci-fi drama about the adventures of an escaped robot on the loose.

Silent Running: Morally challenging science fiction drama with a protagonist who is a genuine ecological hero thanks to the help of three little robots.

WALL.E: The tender and touching story of a lonely robot on Earth who falls in love and becomes a spiritual teacher to all who encounter him.