Review by Sean Boelman
A romance led by two stars as big in the cinephile sphere as Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun was always sure to be a hot prospect, but cinephiles probably didn’t realize what they were getting into with Sam & Andy Zuchero’s directorial debut Love Me. The epitome of a love-it-or-hate-it movie, Love Me is the type of film that audiences will either dismiss preemptively or embrace with an open mind and heart.
The film tells the epic love story between a buoy and a satellite, thousands of years after humanity has been wiped out of existence and Earth is desolate and abandoned. It’s a wacky concept that’s likely to put some people off due to its sheer weirdness factor, but if you’re willing to meet it on its own level, it’s an incredibly intriguing experiment.
How much Love Me works for you will depend on whether you are willing to give it the level of suspension of disbelief it asks for. If you buy into the fact that two artificial intelligences — on a buoy and a satellite, no less, not even humanoid robots — are falling in love, it will be adorable. If you can’t, it could feel annoyingly quirky.
Throughout the film, Sam & Andy Zuchero ask a lot of interesting questions. There are the (more obvious) big-picture themes like “What makes us human?” and “At what point does artificial intelligence become real intelligence?” but the parts of the film that work better are the more subtle subplots, such as the exploration of our society’s increasing reliance on social media.
Yet, while the film narratively moves in a line — one that covers several millennia, at that — it feels like it’s moving thematically in a circle. Many of these themes are interesting individually, but they don’t come together in a way that feels entirely cohesive. Of course, the natural inclination is to amount this to the fact that love is messy, but that doesn’t totally excuse some of the moments that feel like they are stalling.
Still, Sam & Andy Zuchero are undeniably ambitious filmmakers. Whether you like it or not, you have to admire the massive swing the duo took in trying to create a time-spanning romance between two inanimate objects. The visuals are creative and gorgeous, particularly in the first act, which is a bit more minimalistic.
Beyond the visuals, the film is driven by its two lead performances, which do an incredible job of creating emotion through a hybrid medium. Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun are both very impressive in the film when their performances are purely voice-driven, but even when they are seen in live action, their ability to capture these inhuman mannerisms is astonishing.
For some, Love Me might be a massive swing and a miss, but it’s undeniably one of the most distinct visions to come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Yet perhaps more surprisingly, it’s one of the most humanistic films that played there, too, even though its characters aren’t even human.
Love Me screened at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, which ran January 18-28 in-person in Park City, UT and online from January 25-28.