For the last few years, the realm of the teenage romance/thriller has, for better or worse, been mostly usurped by the overwhelming popularity of sparkly bloodsuckers and perpetually shirtless wolf-boys. As a result, films like 'Love Me,' and other more down-to-earth entries into the genre (if there is such a thing) have tended to look rather paltry in comparison. After all, what's so special about an average teen's foray into the sometimes-labyrinthine aspects of young romance and burgeoning adulthood when compared to the forbidden allure of supernatural lust?
Well, now that – until the inevitable sequel/reboot occurs – the 'Twilight Saga' has concluded, regular teens can come out of hiding; they are no longer forced to roam the wasteland that is the direct-to-video shelf, or the not-quite-ready-for-Lifetime dustbin. Teens can once more flirt with danger as a young Reese Witherspoon did in 'Fear,' while the kid from 'Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog' can experience what it's like to be in Michael Douglass' shoes in the aquatic 'Fatal Attraction' homage that is 'Swimfan.' But the teen thriller field, having recently spent years away from such stylings, is notably not quite ready for such robust fare. So, naturally, it's only decent that it get some much-needed practice in with the milquetoast thriller that is 'Love Me.'
One of the most remarkable things about this little offering from our friends in the North is how truly unremarkable it is. At the onset, there is a sweet, unassuming, almost overly congenial nature to what essentially wants to be a teenaged murder-mystery, with tinges of after-school-special and a mild Kevin Williamson-vibe thrown in for good measure. From the first moment the film works to introduce its major players to the audience there's something altogether familiar about nearly everything onscreen. Initially, it seems like the déjà vu is simply related to the actors, in the way they share that same blandly attractive quality that would garner someone significant attention by a casting agent for 'The Vampire Diaries.' But soon it becomes obvious that the familiarity of it all isn't merely the fact that, once again, a group of good-looking twentysomethings has been banded together to play teens at an oddly immaculate high school. It's that everything about the production of the film makes it appear as if 'Love Me' were an abandoned pilot episode for a new drama on The CW.
Well, there must be something about the way The CW handles its titles because, as it turns out, 'Love Me' is directed by Rick Bota, a cinematographer/director whose credits include CW programs like 'Supernatural' and the much maligned, yet inexplicably not cancelled 'Beauty and the Beast.' Given the immediate recognition of the tone and stylistic elements that the film shares with the network's offerings, perhaps that says something about the level of consistency that exists within the programming, but, chances are, it is just speaking more to the less-than-ambitious flair the film shares with some teen-friendly television.
Written by Kat Candler, whose credits are mostly limited to short films, 'Love Me' revolves around a group of tight knit high school friends as they try to deal with the possibility of young love tearing the assembly apart. At the center of the group is Sylvia Potter (Lindsey Shaw of 'Pretty Little Liars'), a sweet-natured young woman living with a single mother who suddenly finds she's falling for bad boy Lucas Green (Jamie Johnston), despite still having some issues stemming from a previous abusive relationship, and being the unrequited love interest of her best friend, Harry Townsend (Jean-Luc Bilodeau). To complicate things further, Lucas Green is the former flame of Sylvia's friend Dayln – played by Kaitlyn Leeb, who made a splash in the otherwise forgettable 2012 remake of 'Total Recall' as the ample bosomed prostitute – and the subject of a police investigation regarding a vague acquaintance and classmate who went missing some months prior.
The film is clearly concerned with creating some sense of tension between the missing student and Sylvia's new love interest, but there's never a clear enough connection established for any of the characters to be that concerned. For the majority of the film, the missing student exists solely as a peripheral question that's not called upon to be of any interest until the identity of the perpetrator is actually revealed. Even then, outside of the normal emotional response one has to an innocent person being the victim of a heinous crime, there's little reason for the characters – or the audience, for that matter – to be affected much by the event. Candler's script does its best to establish doubt as to nearly everyone's involvement in the crime, but it does so in the most listless way possible, resulting in a romantic thriller that's nearly devoid of romance and thrills. In fact, 'Love Me' is so devoid of intrigue and any sense of conflict that were it not for Sylvia at one point acknowledging how she and Lucas have been seeing each other for a few months, it would not have been unreasonable to suggest the entire storyline unfolds over the course of a single languid afternoon.
The problem is that 'Love Me' never manages to muster the energy to get out of the driveway, let alone first gear. So, when it asks the audience to share in what is intended to be a thrilling climax, the best the film can hope for from the viewer is an overwhelming eagerness for the, lazy, languorous mystery to finally come to an end. Complete only in the sense that it offers totally shallow characterizations to go along with an utterly anemic storyline, 'Love Me' is simply another banal example of how trivial teen-centric filmmaking can often be.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Love Me' comes as a single disc in the standard keep case from Anchor Bay. The cover art is probably the most exciting thing about this film, but it is also truly unrepresentative of what's actually on the disc. The disc will auto-play several trailers before reaching the top menu, but the user has the ability to skip over them one by one.
'Love Me' comes with a 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that looks as though it were shot on digital, but at the time of this review, there was no confirmation on that fact. The picture quality is often times sharp, with contrast levels being good throughout. This isn't a remarkable image, but it does offer decent detail and vibrant color reproduction. For the most part, fine detail is visible throughout the film – facial features, hair and clothing texture are represented the best, while certain background details manage to stand out with good to very good levels of clarity.On occasion, there are instances where detail tends to drop, or to become a bit fuzzy, but that never becomes more than a temporary issue. Still, it does lead to the overall feeling that while the image is clean and precise in most instances, there is an unevenness to it that occasionally renders a crisp picture somewhat flat. As mentioned above, the contrast levels are good, blacks are dark, without swallowing up detail, but there are times when depth feels off – like the focus is trying too hard to include everything on screen, and the end result is an image looking inappropriately shallow.
For better or worse, 'Love Me' manages to retain that made-for-TV look throughout its runtime. There's little here to suggest that the film had much of a budget, so what Bota and his crew were able to pull off is actually quite good. There are plenty of other films of this nature that don't look quite as polished, or tend to go too far overboard in terms of their stylistic approach. Bota should be commended for keeping things on an even keel and doing the best with what he had on hand.
'Love Me' has been given a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that sounds fairly crisp throughout the film, offering a decent extension between the dialogue, sound effects and the film's score. That is, when each element is the sole focus of a particular scene. However, when certain elements like dialogue and score are mixed together, they tend to battle it out with one another, and, more often than not, the dialogue loses.
Thankfully, these moments aren't too frequent, but there are times when a noticeable decline in the level of he dialogue seems to wane, when the musical score underneath picks up. It's never enough to render the actors unheard, but it can muddle their lines in such a way that they become somewhat unclear. While this is an unfortunate issue, the sound elsewhere manages to operate on a fairly even note. When not being interfered with, dialogue manages to come through the center channel with the occasional shift to the front right of left for imaging purposes. Likewise, background and ambient noises can be heard rustling about in the rear channel speakers quite well, adding to the depth of the sound and the imaging quality. There is little LFE to be experienced here, but what is added serves only to enhance certain aspects of the soundtrack or mix, and manages to work fairly well.
Despite the unfortunate issues with the dialogue, this is a mostly competent mix that, while never truly impressive, doesn't completely disappoint, either.
For what its worth, 'Love Me' doesn't have aspirations above being a run-of-the-mill teen thriller. This aspect alone – knowing precisely where you stand in the pecking order of entertainment – can be quite an endearing, or it can be the type of thing that makes a poor film look even worse. This safe little teen thriller, unfortunately, has little to say, and is willing to expound little to no energy in doing so. While there's nothing offensive about the film, the cast is mostly likeable and it's been put together in a relatively polished manner, it is, at the end of the day, merely an after-school special dressed up to look like something more. The trouble comes when you realize there is no actual substance to keep anyone compelled enough to finish it. In the end, 'Love Me' fails to be gripping in even the most basic way, which means you should probably steer clear of this lackluster teen thriller.