Love Me (2024)

Love Me Review

Love Me

About relationships and the unfair expectations humans have of them, Sam and Andy Zuchero’s bold love story is at its best when it has its two human stars on screen.

On the simplest level, “Love Me” is about a buoy adrift at sea and a satellite orbiting Earth. Sam and Andy Zuchero’s strange cosmic rom-com takes place in a future after people when all that remains are machines that survived us, armed with only what they could scrounge from search engines and social media sites: one giant hard drive’s worth of data. The two devices are easy to root for, or you can dive as deep as you like into this weirdest of odd-couple love stories by projecting yourself onto AI characters played (in various forms) by Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun.

Those two are beautiful and complicated enough to be robots themselves or at least idealized avatars for them. As much as it may resemble movies made for multitaskers whose brains have grown accustomed to constantly switching between screens (“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” we’re looking at you), the Zucheros’ creation is bold and new. But this is anything but “Casablanca,” or even Spike Jonze’s “Her.”

It may be science-fiction convention that all robots secretly want to be human, but here that operating assumption invites human projections upon Stewart and Yeun’s evolving screen counterparts as the two Self-Monitoring Analyzing and Revision Technology machines act out what it means to be a couple let alone alive, or in love over roughly an eon. The movie opens with the extinction event that leaves the SB350 Smart Buoy stranded off what was once Manhattan, then races through a time-lapse history of the planet.

This is Spielbergian future territory; think of the final act of “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” And yet there’s something shrewd about shooting such a world practically, so the floating device feels real when we first “meet” it. Same with the helper satellite seen streaking high overhead like a long-tail blue comet which was built to scale by Laird FX (smart, since much of what happens in between those two points is dominated by visual effects).

One has a lens where its eye might be, the other a series of solar panels that look like petals. But neither seems anthropomorphic per se not compared with Wall-E and Eve, who had eyes and limbs, plus Pixar animators working around the clock to humanize their every expression. “Love Me” leans a little too heavily on comedy while taking easy-target swipes at online culture circa 2024; then again, the Zucheros don’t rely on cuteness, trusting adult (or at least young-adult) imaginations to do most of the work.

The buoy, which calls itself (or “Me” for short), and the satellite, now named “Iam,” are essentially blank-slate AIs at first. Me’s job is to find a connection, while Iam is meant to connect with any life-form that exists on the planet formerly inhabited by humans. So they do, but it starts with a lie: Me isn’t a life-form, but has to act like one in order to initiate the bond. It’s not hard to think of Me’s fib as akin to the little white lies people tell when they meet, whether online or IRL embellishments intended to make themselves more attractive, available or average than they really are.

Once there’s a link between Me and Iam, the Zucheros provide a virtual space where their other interactions can take place first a blank-screen search engine, then a rudimentary VR apartment, modeled after an influencer couple named Deja and Liam (played by Stewart and Yeun) that Me sees on her Instagram feed. Me steals Deja’s identity and presents it as her own, introducing another high-concept version of a hoary rom-com cliché: the built-on-a-lie trope, where one party assumes the relationship will crumble if they come clean.

Early on, Me binges some YouTube videos focused on “love,” which takes many forms (from cuddly puppies to parent-child embraces). One can only imagine how confusing human emotions might be for AIs that outlive us, but the Zucheros seem more interested in the buoy and satellite as metaphors for the human brain: how we’re socialized; how various media serve to shape our expectations of marriage, motherhood and more.

One of Deja’s postings catches Me’s eye; it’s called “Date Night 2.0,” in which the couple make quesadillas, kiss and watch “Friends.” That sitcom, and most of what Hollywood has produced over the past century, could be considered as contrived and impossible-to-emulate as Deja’s influencer posts. Depending on how you choose to read “Love Me,” Me and Iam might not be robots at all, but stand-ins for impressionable young people confronted with images of what to seek from a partner. (Harder to interpret is the incredibly long stretch they spend apart, as Iam obsesses about creating water and incrementally upgrades the virtual apartment.)

The movie’s sex scene, when it comes, is the most tantalizing two minutes in the Zucheros’ often confounding (but never dull) 91-minute feature — so much of which defies conventional movie grammar as editors Joseph Krings and Salman Handy try to express outside-the-box ideas about love and identity. In that particular montage, Me and Iam have moved from rudimentary Sims-style avatars to hyper-real versions of Stewart and Yeun themselves, whom Me imagines with long hair and breasts.

What is she longing for, deep down? What percentage of those emotions are put there by society instead of growing from inside? These are good questions to ask a quest for truth from artificial intelligence but I’d rather they were embodied by humans living in the world (rather than the cardboard avatars who hang around too long in the movie’s saggy midsection). The Zucheros take what feels like an unnecessarily high-concept approach, as if they’ve gone all the way around the sun to get back to Earth with a boy-meets-girl story.

As two robots run through “Date Night 2.0” over and over until they succeed, it’s hard not to see a flaw in their understanding of love: Why do they only have this one idea about romance? And why would robots care about romance at all? Give two SMART devices brains and a billion years and you’d think they’d come up with more complicated relationship models. Maybe even teach us something new, instead of ending up right where people were before they killed each other.

Watch Love Me For Free On Gomovies.

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