One of the most buzzed-about titles premiering at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival was Love Me, starring Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun. Most of us who attended the world premiere knew little to nothing about the film outside of seeing a photo of Kristen and Steven lying on a bed and the vague logline that was posted on the Sundance website, which read, “Long after humanity’s extinction, a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love.” Nonetheless, almost like clock world, the Eccles Theater was sold out as the crowd eagerly waited to see what Love Me was all about and whether it would be the next big Sundance breakout hit.
Before I begin this review, I want to remind everyone that film is an art form, and like all art, films are subjective. Love Me is the kind of film that I foresee people either loving it or hating it. I see very little in between with this one, so it will be a polarizing experience for most viewers. Love Me is an experimental mindfuck, one that I loved, and made me feel every single emotion while watching it.
Told through a series of inanimate objects (a buoy and a satellite), online avatars (think Second Life), animation, motion capture, and the real world, Love Me explores what it means to be alive and how we present ourselves to those around us. Filmmakers Sam and Andy Zuchero take some big swings with their feature film debut and are fearless in challenging the audience. This is not the kind of film that goes down easy but instead, one that poses difficult questions, some of which will make A LOT of viewers feel uncomfortable. It is a film that tackles technology, love, and identity. A film that begs the question, “Are you real?” and what that means to be one’s true self?
Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun are tasked with playing two characters who grow and learn as the film progresses. Stewart voices the buoy named Me, and all the female characters named Déja. Yuen voices the satellite named Iam and all the male characters named Liam. Their multi-layered performances showcase just how much range these two actors have. Stewart, playing a bubbly influencer, is an absolute joy to watch. The whole influencer persona is the polar opposite of who she is, making the performance even more standout. Yeun’s Iam challenges the status quo as he goes through what can best be described as a personality crisis. Throughout the film, the character questions what he is, what he is doing, and why. Stewart and Yeun are the only actors involved in this project, and they elevate the material every step of the way with bold and powerful performances.
Sam and Andy Zuchero made the film set up very much like a play, as it is told in three acts. The first act is focused solely on Me and Iam as the buoy and the satellite, the second is more in virtual reality, and the third is in the real world. These acts are all fascinating to watch unfold as they build upon these characters and their actions. I applaud storytellers who make the viewer feel things about inanimate objects. This is the same magic that Pixar has received universal praise for over the years with films like Toy Story and Wall-E. Some viewers may even notice some similarities between Wall-E and Love Me. The themes of loneliness, love, and self-realization can be found in both films, but each explores these themes uniquely.
I am usually leery about experimental films and filmmakers because they tend to be “too out there” for their own good. Even though Love Me takes some big swings with its filmmaking and storytelling, I feel the film is grounded and simplistic. The Film is ultimately a love story that takes you on an emotional journey. Love Me made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me think. It made me uncomfortable. Love Me challenged me and made me feel something I don’t usually feel when I watch movies. I don’t call a lot of films masterpieces, but I think Love Me is an experimental masterpiece that will spark a lot of discussion and debate among those who have seen it or will see it. I highly recommend it and think it is one of the best films to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.