Polygon

The ambitious science fiction romance Love Me finds the darker, sadder side of WALL-E

This preliminary report on Love Me comes from our workforce following the premieres at the 2024 Sundance Movie Competition. We’ll replace this piece when there’s extra details about the film’s launch.

Logline

On a post-apocalyptic Earth, two lingering AIs — an internet-enabled robotic buoy and an orbiting satellite tv for pc (performed by Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun, respectively) — forge a tentative emotional connection and begin emulating their long-gone creators.

Longerline

Sam and Andy Zuchero’s directorial debut is a captivating oddity — a quasi love story between synthetic intelligences who should reinvent love from scratch, based mostly on the distinctively unhelpful portrayals of it that their creators left behind. Instructed partially with robotic fashions, partially with animated avatars in a shared digital area, and partially in dwell motion, it’s a visually and narratively creative story filled with symbolism that touches on science fiction’s most typical query, “What does it mean to be human?”

However that symbolism isn’t overbearing, and the film might simply as simply be taken as a tragicomic satire about social media, and the way poorly it displays how individuals really dwell. As the two AIs grope towards understanding what they every need and the way that pertains to their relationship, they take cues from YouTube, and from one way of life blogger specifically (additionally performed by Stewart), with difficult outcomes. Like a lot about the film, the satirical points are humorous, however they result in pretty darkish, unhappy locations.

What’s Love Me attempting to do?

Pixar followers will definitely be reminded of WALL-E in the early sequences of Love Me, as the battered, rusty terrestrial AI and its modern, shiny spaceborne counterpart first join and attempt to determine one another out, in spite of their contradictory programming. The buoy’s cute robotic mannequin, which spends the film bobbing in water down on Earth, has a distinctly WALL-E-like forlornness: The motion and irising of her single central “eye” clearly talk hope, longing, frustration, and embarrassment as she seems to be up into the sky at her distant counterpart and so they beam messages backwards and forwards. For a 90-minute film, Love Me feels surprisingly leisurely — particularly in the early going, as the two characters begin establishing their very own identities and feeling one another out inside the numerous digital areas they create to speak.

After that, as the buoy tries to press the two of them right into a routine cribbed from her favourite YouTube influencer video, all the things will get extra difficult. The Zucheros’ script is surprisingly merciless and one-sided in the second and third act, with its female-coded buoy proving needy, controlling, blinkered, and fragile, in comparison with the extra even-keeled and emotionally mature satellite tv for pc. The option to saddle these two robots with gender in the first place feels odd and never completely mandatory. The option to then lock them into stereotypical “women are emotional and complicated, men are rational and simple” roles is much more doubtful.

However the intention really doesn’t appear to be to bolster gender biases or denigrate Stewart’s character. Love Me seems to be attempting to inform a narrative about emotional development, independence, and the positives and negatives of feeling locked right into a relationship with another person. These intentions get muddier as the story progresses from its quite simple opening and its low-key hilarious second act into an ambitious, manic finale that feels surprisingly like an echo of Darren Aronofsky’s Mom!, full with shifting nightmare imagery and a touring digicam chasing the characters by way of an unpredictable surroundings.

Kristen Stewart, Steven Yeun, and Sam and Andy Zuchero at Sundance
Photograph: George Pimentel/Shutterstock for Sundance

Does Love Me dwell as much as its premise?

Love Me’s mockery of the artificiality of influencer way of life running a blog feels fairly dated — that is the sort of factor Black Mirror has been doing for occurring a decade now, and it isn’t any brisker right here. And the final message roughly quantities to “Be yourself,” which looks like a reasonably rote conclusion for such an enjoyably odd, particular film.

That stated, it’s nonetheless a powerful debut. The visible method is intelligent and compelling, as the two AIs transfer their interactions right into a digital area, and that area retains creating as they do. Frequent cuts again to their actual our bodies, every present process their very own metamorphoses as millennia cross, pointedly remind the viewers that their world — and by proxy, their complete relationship — is a man-made assemble that solely exists as a result of they’ve agreed on it. It’s a potent metaphor for the method any relationship is a matter of collusion and collaboration, a sort of shared actuality that may simply come aside if each contributors don’t see it the identical method.

And Stewart and Yeun put an actual soulfulness and complexity into their characters, which is essential to the complete story. Stewart’s character might simply be coded as shrill and annoying, however Stewart provides her a pathos coming from fumbled need, and it’s extra relatable than a lady enjoying a salinity-analyzing droid in a CG physique has any proper to be.

The quote that claims all of it

“I am… life form!” When the buoy first comes again on-line, she has little or no sense of language or self. However when she makes contact with the satellite tv for pc and discovers he’s solely programmed to work together with life types — which she, as a robotic, technically shouldn’t be — she fumbles for an answer that can get his consideration and focus. She figures out tips on how to type a sentence, and in the identical breath, tips on how to mislead the solely different clever being in her world. It’s a breakthrough second for her that additionally painfully foreshadows rather a lot of their interactions to come back.

Most memeable second

In a single second of existential despair, the buoy flops onto its again and lets herself slowly sink into the water, like Homer Simpson backing into the hedge. It’s a concurrently tragic and hilariously melodramatic second, made for gifs and “hard same, my buoy friend, hard same” memes.

Is Love Me good?

Love Me feels prefer it might have used one other draft or two of the script, to extra rigorously steadiness the characters and story, and make its themes just a little richer. However it’s a daringly bizarre debut, executed with actual model and imaginative and prescient. It’s an oddity that’s sure to enchantment to followers of equally unusual high-concept love tales, like Everlasting Sunshine of the Spotless Thoughts.

When can we see it?

Love Me is at the moment in search of a distributor. Polygon will replace this protection when a platform and launch date is about.

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