YEAR: 2024 / COUNTRY: UNITED STATES / LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / RUN TIME: 92 MIN
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Steven Yeun
Director(s): Sam Zachero
As filmmakers Sam & Andy demonstrate in their wildly imaginative debut feature, telling the love story of a smart buoy and an orbiting satellite that spans a billion years and probes the mysteries of being and consciousness requires legit storytelling dexterity. Love Me’s whimsically philosophical, shape-shifting structure ingeniously weaves together the real, the virtual, and the surreal. Its star-crossed, web-paired metallic protagonists — inhabited in different forms by Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun — awkwardly navigate romance and companionship, equipped only with untold petabytes of archived web data, social media, and online videos. Awash in these mediated experiences and fabricated expressions of love and identity, they yearn to understand who they are, whether their feelings are real, and for that matter, whether they are real.
Written By Darren Zakus
Rating: 3 out of 5
Love Me has a good concept that is brought to life by the magnetic performances of Kristen Stewart and Steven Yuen, however with the themes being explored and the general plot direction, it becomes evident that a more succinct short film would have been the better format for this story.
A sea buoy and a satellite. It’s an unexpected romantic pairing, given the physical distance between them with one in the ocean and one in the sky, but it’s the beautiful relationship that is explored in Love Me, the writing and directorial debut of Sam and Andrew Zuchero. It feels reminiscent of Disney Pixar’s Wall-E as you watch these two pieces of technology fall in love, exploring what feelings are and how they are attributed to love they feel for each other, and wondering what it would be like to be physically together. This first act is absolutely adorable and pulls the audience into the film before transitioning into the social media and digital world of the remaining two acts. At this point, there is a shift as the film explores the social media crave and creating one’s online persona as Me and Iam take on a human form through their digital avatars. The ideas explored are deep, timely and told in such a unique way that it makes the film truly one of a kind, emphasizing the great concept that Sam and Andrew Zuchero have developed. But at the same time, you can start to feel the runtime as it spends almost an hour in the second two acts of the film,during which it becomes clear that the points the film wants to make could have been achieved in a more efficient manner. There’s no denying that the central romance is cute and the themes explored are enough to hold the audience’s attention, but it feels like that this story would have been better suited for a short film, or even a one hour film, which would allow the ideas to be explored more succinctly and not drawn out to fill a ninety minute run time.
The CGI is impressive in bringing to life all the different environments of the story, with some wonderful shots that fully bring to life the buoy and satellite in the first act, before transitioning to the digital avatar world that Me and Iam live in. This digital world looks like a video game world populated by three dimensional bitmojis, creating a visual space for the story to exist in that feels reminiscent of the human world but that is obviously computer generated, which fits nicely with the themes and views on social media that the film is conveying.
What holds the film together is the performances of Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun as Me and Iam respectively, both of whom turn in excellent work from start to finish. From the second you meet the two of them in their robot form, their voice performances instantly make you fall in love with their characters in a truly endearing manner. The voice performances evolve in complexity as the story progresses, as Me and Iam begin to develop their personalities through their digital avatars, allowing Stewart and Yeun to make their one dimensional, naïve and hopeful robots into multidimensional individuals. Yeun finds a calmness and insight in Iam that allows the audience to believe in his character’s hesitation towards Me’s changes, despite not having any prior experience to judge it against. Stewart captures the rabbit hole that some individuals fall into in creating their online persona, caring more about the image they are putting out than who they are around their loved ones with a narrow mindedness within her voice that both has the audience dismayed by her actions like Iam, but also feeling sorry for her character as she does not know any better.
There is no denying that the storytelling at play during Love Me is ambitious, and even though it’s not the perfect final product, it showcases inventive ideas and compelling filmmaking from both Sam and Andrew Zuchero that promises more exciting stories from them in the future. Watching a buoy and a satellite fall in love is delightful, especially when fantastically voiced by the powerhouse pairing of Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun, but Love Me stretches its themes and ideas too far, causing them to lose their effect on the audience despite the endearing romance that plays out over the course of the film.