Sundance 2024: ‘Love Me’ is an Inventive Sci-Fi Tale of Defining ‘You’


    Sundance 2024: ‘Love Me’ is an Inventive Sci-Fi Tale of Defining ‘You’

    by Alex Billington
    January 22, 2024

    Love Me Review

    Are you really you? What makes you, you? The important existential questions of our time. Modern society has moved to the defensive belief that, of course everyone is themselves, of course you can’t argue with that! How dare you question that! But – what if the things that you claim make you you, are not actually genuine? What if most people are actually living fake lives, trying to replicate and model some other person they look up to, instead of defining themselves authentically. This is the idea that this mesmerizing new film grapples with – in a fascinating, visually compelling, and unquestionably thought-provoking way. Love Me is one of the most innovative films I have seen so far in 2024 (while wading through the terrific Sundance 2024 selection). It’s got a few flaws, and it doesn’t dig deep enough into these questions and concepts, but it’s still an ambitious, one-of-a-kind cinematic creation unlike anything I’ve encountered before. The premise: in the future after humanity is gone, a leftover “smart buoy” and a satellite orbiting Earth connect and fall in love.

    Love Me is written and directed by filmmakers Sam & Andy Zuchero, premiering at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival in the prestigious U.S. Dramatic Competition section. I will happily defend this film as one of its big supporters, even if I think it has some issues. I do think many will dislike this film, calling it dumb or pretentious or silly. However, Love Me is a worthwhile because the visualization of the buoy + satellite love story is unconventional. They visualize this “romantic” connection using every cinematic trick in the book – with actual, real objects rendered with life-like movements similar to Pixar’s Wall-E, and with actual actors who appear at one point. As well as with screen-based storytelling; the satellite has a storage bank with all of the data from Earth (basically the entire internet saved on its orbiting harddrives). The actors appear when they’re pulled from images and videos found in this database, and each one builds an identity around what they can find in the archives. Essentially the film becomes a story about – how do you create your identity? Specifically: what would complex A.I. reference if it wanted to humanize itself and identify as a “person”?

    Though here’s the actual truth of the film: it’s not really about Artificial Intelligence. Once again, it’s simply a storytelling gimmick, in order to make a film that is actually about humanity. Of course, you may say, but it’s easy to get lost in the A.I. story as if it’s trying to be another futuristic look at how A.I. would interact with and use the endless archives of human content to understand what humans were like before they wiped themselves out. One of the first chapters of the film that will take some viewers out of it involves a corny 3D CGI visualization of these two “people” – as played by Kristen Stewart (the buoy who goes by “Me”) and Steven Yeun (the satellite who goes by “I Am”). It’s ugly and cartoonish but, that is ultimately the point. It’s the first reference to our modern social media obsessed society, referencing the “Metaverse” and these dumb Memoji characterizations that many people do actually use when creating their online persona. This film is acting as meta commentary on these faux identities that everyone is obsessed with creating and living through. They’re crude characterizations and that is part of the cultural criticism baked right into the film.

    Love Me is one of the first films I’ve seen that boldly states an objective truth that many do not want to deal with: most people are living fake lives, very few are actually really truly genuinely themselves. Whenever a film puts a mirror up to society like this, most reject it, most will jump at calling it dumb or boring because they “know this” already. Yet then they leave the theater and go out to live their fake lives again. Love Me makes some ambitious narrative decisions that force the buoy and satellite to question themselves and ask whether they are being real. In the first half, they get obsessed with living a social media influencer lifestyle over and over, until they breakdown and realize it’s all fake. Then they have to tear everything down and figure out who they are and rebuild themselves. While I do wish the film was ultimately a cinematic guide to how to truly be the “real you”, it stops short and focuses on simply reminding humanity that we’re all fake. And we seriously need to break out of this cycle, no matter how many millions or billions of years it’ll take.

    Alex’s Sundance 2024 Rating: 8 out of 10
    Follow Alex on Twitter – @firstshowing / Or Letterboxd – @firstshowing


    Find more posts: Review, Sci-Fi, Sundance 24

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