Love Me review: "Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun's new sci-fi romance is ambitious but ultimately underwhelms"

 Love Me.
Love Me.

Love Me premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2024. Here’s our review…

Every so often, along comes a film that’s so ambitious you just can’t help wishing its execution lived up to its central idea. Writer/director duo Sam and Andy Zuchero take an admirably big swing with their feature debut Love Me, but it never engages emotionally in the way this kind of material needs to.

There’s something reminiscent of WALL*E in its sentient-machines-in-love premise. In the far-flung future, a melting ice cap frees a 'smart buoy' that’s been trapped on what was once Earth for centuries. This buoy begins interacting with a satellite whose job it is to teach any visitor about life on this now-uninhabited planet.

The buoy – who takes the name 'Me' – starts building an impression of life and love from materials beamed down, and becomes obsessed with influencer couple Deja and Liam, played by Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun (who also voice the bots). Me and Iam (as the satellite’s consciousness becomes known) begin a relationship in this digital space that develops with time jumps that make 2001: A Space Odyssey look reserved with its leaps (at one point a title card reads "1,000,000,000 years later"...)

The casting of Stewart and Yeun (who play Me and Iam’s avatars as well as the social-media couple that inspired them) also leaves you willing this experiment to work. Both are eminently watchable, but here struggle with some pretty leaden dialogue. Sure, there's the argument that they’re talking the way AI programs would, but that doesn’t make it go down any easier. Similarly, an extended section in which their characters are rendered in rudimentary CG has the distracting effect that you’re watching a cheapo animation, regardless of the intent behind it.

Every so often, there are moments that leap out - a neat visual, an interesting take on a sex scene - and it’s filled with material that could get you talking (how far are you judging your own happiness by someone else’s metrics?). But it ultimately feels a bit throwaway, its ideas never quite coalescing into a fully satisfying watch. It’s hard to escape Black Mirror comparisons, but Love Me lacks the emotional resonance of similarly themed episodes like 'San Junipero' and 'Hang the DJ'.

The frequent recourse to online viral videos grates too, especially at feature length. There’s probably a decent short buried in here that – unlike its protagonists – hasn’t survived being stretched out over an extended period of time.

Love Me's release date is currently TBC.

For more from Sundance, read our A Real Pain review.