(director/writer: Sam and Andy Zuchero; cinematographer: Germain McMicking; editor: Joseph Krings; music: David Longstreth; cast: Kristen Stewart (Deja/Me/Buoy), Steven Yeun (Liam/Iam/Satellite); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Kevin Rowe, Luca Borghese, Ben Howe, Shivani Rawat, Julie Goldstein; a ShivHans Pictures; 2024)

“I found it a tough watch.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First time directors Sam and Andy Zuchero direct and write this offbeat romance sci-fi Pixar film. It’s an uneven but curious failed experimental robot love story, filmed as a fable, between a satellite (Steven Yeun) and a smart buoy (Kristen Stewart). It asks what makes us human and about the relationship between technology and identity, and doesn’t answer either question as well as other futuristic sci-fi films do.

In the post-apocalyptic future, after the world collapses from an experiment gone wrong, which we see in a comically animated opening sequence, the brothers (I assume they’re brothers) chronicle the implausible two-hander AI love story.

Buoy as Me, is bobbing alone in a Manhattan where once the Atlantic Ocean was in play, in a destroyed world where humans are extinct, when Iam, a satellite orbiting the Earth, locates her. The two research inanimate objects meet cute and try to relate to each other, as they start by talking in a primitive way. Their speech improves over time, as the programmed machines evolve and their speech becomes more like those of their human creators (offering the cliche that AI’s crave to be humans). They even mess around with trying to love each other, while searching philosophically to see if love is something that really exists and could be grasped as a real thing humans do.

The high-concept cerebral film uses the non-humans to examine what makes someone human, as machines go through the process of falling in love.

We further find out the two characters are modeled after an influencer couple named Deja and Liam, that Me sees on her Instagram page. Me steals Deja’s identity and presents it as her own, as the rom-com part shows them as a perfect couple at one time doing a cooking show on YouTube.
It probably sounded like it was a good idea when written as a screenplay, but to make it work as a film is another story. Though I applaud the filmmakers for their creativity in filming it and the actors for their fine performances, I found it a tough watch.

It played at the Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance - US DRAMATIC

REVIEWED ON 1/28/2024  GRADE: C+