The first thing to know about the AI romance Love Me is that Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun play YouTube influencers. Déja, with a sky-high blonde ponytail, and Liam, who sports a permagrin, are a couple who make vlogs of them cooking dinner in footie pajamas (sponsored by Blue Apron, naturally); watching Friends reruns; and even getting engaged. And yes, it’s as cringey as it sounds.
I was mesmerized watching the cool and aloof Stewart fearlessly step into a role that is so entertaining that it feels almost like fan service. (Who doesn’t want to see respected actors embody the fascinating and embarrassing cult of the influencer?) She’s as believable as if I’d pulled up Déja and Liam’s YouTube channel on my own laptop. But Love Me’s humiliation serves a purpose: It’s a brilliant, blistering critique and existential musing on what it means to be human that takes place over 37 billion years — of course influencers are involved.
The film begins long after humanity’s extinction leaves only two beings in the world: a smart buoy named Me (voiced by Stewart) and a satellite named Iam (voiced by Yeun). They find each other, and, overnight, Me culls the Internet via YouTube videos to piece together a rough history of humanity. At this point, the film swells into a sentimental, self-referential montage that brings to mind Google’s Year in Review commercials, working to defamiliarize the vast amount of content that is available on the Internet, from self-help vlogs to babies laughing. Here, Me comes across Déja’s profile, using it as a guidebook on what it must mean to be human.
As Iam and Me fall deeper in love, they start to transform into animated versions of Déja and Liam, reenacting the YouTube clips that Me first watched. Stewart and Yeun donned motion-capture suits for this act of the film, making their animated avatars look like glitchy Sims with uncannily accurate expressions and adding to the film’s sense of sublime uneasiness. Soon enough, Iam becomes more sentient and starts wondering what it means to be a life form. How do we know who we are? What does love feel like? Can you feel it in a kiss? It’s a kind of easy-to-grasp, Saganian existentialism that made me feel curious about our place in the universe, not fearful of human collapse.
Eventually, the animated versions of Stewart and Yeun give way to unnamed human life forms, which is when some of the most tender moments of relationships come alive for both the audience and the characters. As they stare at each other in bed, eat ice cream, and play Dance Dance Revolution, I thought about the universality of coupledom, how even long after the demise of civilization, all people really want to do is be together. They learn that their lives don’t have to look like Déja and Liam: People can be whoever they want, and that can change every day. It’s a love story that’s as existential as it is hopeful, one where love conquers all, even after billions of years.