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Sundance 2024 – Love Me ★★



Released: Sundance Film Festival (2024)

Director: Sam And Andy Zuchero

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Steven Yeun

Marking the feature length film debut of husband-and-wife team Sam and Andy Zuchero, Love Me is an unconventional romance starring Steven Yeun and Kirsten Stewart. After the end of human civilisation, a still-functioning buoy on Earth falls in love with a satellite, embarking on a relationship that questions their existence and self-identity.

Evoking similar vibes to Pixar film WALL-E. The concept of romance between two unlikely parties or, in this case, inanimate objects, has both appeal and universal coherence. There is an initial charm between the run-down buoy and the high-tech satellite, with traditional communication replaced with viral videos and random memes stored in the satellite’s library of Earth’s history. But when it becomes clear that the satellite will only interact with lifeforms, the narrative takes a rather toxic turn when the buoy adopts the name ‘Me’ and fakes its identity, thanks to an influencer named Deja (Stewart), whose posts include her boyfriend Liam (Yeun). 

The Zucheros cleverly incorporate a relatable theme of self-identity amid the digital age – when people resonate with an online persona rather than a physical one – which nicely ties into Love Me’s post-apocalyptic setting. Meanwhile, the use of artificial intelligence sees Me using Deja’s videos to build the foundations of their relationship with the satellite (now known as Iam), attempting to make spicy quesadillas and get hyped up for date night – on repeat. Needless to say, this repetitiveness becomes monotonous, so it is unsurprising that while Me desperately forces them to practically duplicate Deja’s videos – in the assumption that this is what humans do – their relationship becomes increasingly fake and hard to watch. Distorting the romantic core of the film, throwing it into a never-ending cycle of “Who am I?”, compounding the feeling of monotony. 

Love Me further loses its way as it heads into the second act, which allows Stewart and Yeun to ‘assume’ their characters’ avatars to become physical characters. By this point, Iam is comfortable with living an actual existence – having come to terms with ‘existence’ – but Me is still living a lie, choosing to continue imitating Deja rather than risk losing Iam. Yeun and Stewart attempt to stabilise the wandering narrative with their spirited performances but by this point, not even passionate kisses and bouts of sex can prevent the plot elements from becoming so entangled that it is difficult to make sense of Love Me. As a result, the film’s initially sweet romance deflates into a half-baked philosophical insight to one’s identity that doesn’t go anywhere.

Despite the confusing narrative, the Zucheros incorporate smart production design and slick animation that smartly conveys its stifling isolation and emptiness of an empty Earth, feeding the need for the characters to find solace with each other. Together with the whimsical piano score by Dirty Projectors’ frontman David Longstreth, there is a basis for something endearing – it just unfortunately becomes lost in something bigger.

Like its characters, Love Me goes to great lengths to be something that it isn’t but despite Stewart and Yuen’s best efforts, it ultimately comes across as empty and artificial.

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