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Highlights

Identity, Influencer Culture, and Self Worth Intersect at the End of the Earth in “Love Me”

Steven Yeun and Kristen Stewart at the Love Me premiere (photo by George Pimentle/Shutterstock for Sundance)

by Bailey Pennick

It might be strange to call a film that features all of human history and grand apocalypse visuals right from the get-go an intimate two-hander, but Love Me is no ordinary film. “The beginning of the film was directly influenced by Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’ quote,” says Andy Zuchero, one of the film’s directors during the freewheeling and warm conversation following the January 19 premiere of their debut feature film at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Referencing one of the most well-known quotes by the famed astronomer (and turtleneck/blazer influencer) is par for the course for this high-concept love story. “We wanted [this film] to give you the same sense of awe as that photograph of Earth — feeling big and small at the same time.”

That’s how the growing emotion and love of a new relationship feels too. Everything’s big and small at the same time. For Me (an adventurous Kristen Stewart) and Iam (a nuanced Steven Yeun), small pleasures like making Blue Apron’s “spicy veggie quesadillas” while dressed in ridiculous animal onesies and binging Friends reruns on date night is monumental. 

Actually, for Me and Iam, it’s everything they do because they aren’t real humans. Me is a smart buoy floating through the ocean at the end of the world who links up with Iam — a satellite that orbits the vestiges of our planet with humanity’s story for any life-form who wanders into Earth’s atmosphere. Me is immediately interested in continuing its connection with Iam, but the satellite is only programmed to connect with life-forms. Suddenly, Me needs to be a life-form — and one that will be acceptable to the satellite. The high-concept film starts to become a lot more familiar to anyone who has ever entered the world of online dating.

Through the apparently eternal magic of YouTube influencers, Me assumes the personality and appearance of Deja and starts to mold Iam into her boyfriend. The problem is that everything she knows about being human is through this influencer’s sponcon videos of idyllic life where people call each other babe and hide wedding rings in ice cream tubs. As Me tries to push Iam to perfectly re-create this ancient human’s staged video, Iam starts to wonder what being real is actually all about. 

“This is the most honest relationship/people movie I’ve ever been a part of,” says Stewart, trying to find the right words to describe the levels of identity and character within Love Me. She smiles and laughs to herself briefly. “Wow, ‘people movie.’ Thank god I’m here to explain it!” The giggles erupt across the stage where Sam Zuchero doubles down on Stewart’s point: “This film is about the self and the presentational self — how are we in our bedroom versus how we want to be seen by others.”

Love Me starts with something as grand as the big bang and ends with two beings that have come to accept who they are and fully appreciate who their partner is. It’s hard to decide which is more awe-inspiring. See? Big and small.

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