There is a palpable undercurrent of desperation in Love Me, a documentary that examines the mail-order bride industry in the digital age. The men who shell out thousands of dollars for the chance to meet Ukrainian women feel they have exhausted every other avenue of finding love, and in this era of internet dating it's not that different from scrolling through profiles on match.com. There are moments of extreme discomfort in Love Me, which never shies away from the inevitable awkwardness of its subject matter, but there is happiness too.
John runs A Foreign Affair, a matchmaking company that sets up American men with foreign women who are looking for a husband. He is a passionate proponent of his own product, having met his own wife Tanya while searching for a bride in Russia. The film follows five of A Foreign Affair's clients as they visit Ukraine on a "love tour." They are a varied bunch: Robert is a successful contractor, Ron is a divorced millionaire, Eric is a gun loving engineer from Texas, Travis is a dairy farmer, and Bobby is a federal worker with a penchant for gaming. We also meet Michael, a widower who uses an Australian matchmaking company that leads him to a woman in Kiev that he wants to marry.
The men meet with varying degrees of success in their overseas adventures. Bobby, socially awkward and overweight, is particularly hard to watch. Even when he suspects the woman he has been communicating with is scamming him, he perseveres because of his acute loneliness. Michael is equally hard to watch because of his absolute cluelessness when it comes to Svitlana, the woman he meets and eventually marries. The men who do well are the ones that seem the least desperate, though a certain amount of desperation comes with the territory.
The film does an admirable job of fully investing us in these stories, though the women and their motivations are not as explored as fully as the men. The end of the film reminds us why all these men and women did what they did, and in my mind I heard the immortal voice of Morrissey singing, "I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does."