HomeaflKristen Stewart & Steven Yeun, Robots In Love

Kristen Stewart & Steven Yeun, Robots In Love

The Pitch: An extinction event has made the Earth a very empty place, so when a solar-powered “smart” buoy (Kristen Stewart) powers back on after many years, it doesn’t have anyone to make ctontact with. Until, that is, it wirelessly connects with a passing orbital beacon (Steven Yeun) that happens to be serving as “humanity’s tombstone.”

The beacon contains a complete archive of human history and experience, and in accessing it remotely, the buoy finds itself flooded with information about the lifeforms that once occupied this planet — information that triggers an evolution in consciousness, one which eventually inspires the beacon’s own self-awareness. Eventually, the buoy (now known as Me) and the beacon (taking on the name Iam) are able to interact in the virtual realm — and a truly strange and beautiful love story begins.

“Here, We Can Live”/ “But What Is Life?”: A breathtaking, joyful, and profound examination of the nature of consciousness and the meaning of life, Love Me takes a premise that sci-fi authors has been exploring for decades and finds a whole new approach. What would it take, for something as simple as a computer program embedded on a microchip on a random device, to attain a higher state of consciousness — to even understand what it means to be conscious?

Science is still searching for those answers, while fiction loves exploring the question. What’s remarkable about Love Me is how it provides a thoughtful, almost novelistic approach to exploring both characters as they evolve and grow — even the way in which the film is made lends so much to the experience, a “mixed media” approach to the storytelling that incorporates physical animatronics, CGI animation, and live action.

The Michel Gondry influence is clear, and at times, the shift between the different styles can be a bit jarring, but it’s essential to setting up the logistics of how these characters build their relationship — while also reflecting how artificial their initial interactions are: In trying to understand what it means to be alive, Me takes the approach of “fake it until you make it,” leaning hard on the archived posts of a long-dead social media influencer and her boyfriend, also played by Stewart and Yeun, making a Blue Apron delivery meal together, forever, on YouTube.

Not-So-Robotic Performances: It’s quite fun to be able to write a phrase like “a solar-powered ‘smart’ buoy (Kristen Stewart)” in a review, but what’s even more fun is watching as the film’s two stars truly end up becoming their characters, their depiction on screen reflecting their increasing evolution towards real life.

Initially, Me and Iam connect as digital avatars reminiscent of the Mii figure you’d create for your Nintendo Wii profile (yes, that’s a crazy outdated reference, but it’s what comes to mind). And as they grow more sophisticated in their understanding of existence, the 3D animation also becomes more sophisticated, to the point where you can actually see Stewart and Yeun as the actors behind their movements.

It’s an evolving process, which means that as the film includes them more and more in the action, the viewer increasingly becomes conditioned to accept flesh-and-blood actors as these personas that have been born and developed since the beginning of the film. Which is to say, at a certain point in Love Me, it’s Kristin Stewart and Steven Yeun talking to each other on camera, and you see them not just as actors, but as the personifications of two lonely machines. It’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment, enhanced by the commitment Stewart and Yeun bring to their respective performances.

The Verdict: Love Me had the potential to be a little too precious in its storytelling — certainly there’s something profoundly cute about two robots falling in love, as any Wall-E fan will tell you. What keeps the narrative balanced is the raw bleakness of the setting: Me and Iam themselves don’t have the easiest relationship, the rough edges of which provide plenty of narrative ups and downs. And more importantly, there’s no hope for humanity’s return, no sense that future generations might be revived thanks to Me and Iam.

Instead, Me and Iam serve as humanity’s final legacy, an unexpected but profound one, thanks to the nuanced way that both Me and Iam begin their first steps towards self-awareness. It makes you consider what we’ll leaving behind as a species, should our time on the planet come to an end. But it also makes you want to appreciate what we all have, while we’re here. Like the miracle of a glass of water. Or a Blue Apron delivery.

Where to Watch: Love Me premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

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