Judging from the stock photo cover art and opening credit sequence, I did not have high hopes for this documentary. But sometimes you have to be patient for the seeds of random Netflix picks to bear fruit. Four lonely middle aged men hire an American ‘mail-order bride’ matchmaking service to take them on a dating tour in Ukraine. Their guide is the founder of the service, an affable dork with average looks and a beautiful Eastern European wife of twenty years. If he can do it, why can’t they? (Results may vary).
As the guys bus from one hilariously awkward mixer to the next, trying to find that future wife who matches their predetermined checklist of qualities, we can feel their hope, disappointment, and desperation. With the help of an interpreter, some of them make a love connection (or delude themselves into thinking so) and the story follows their lives with their new brides-to-be back home.
The film keeps returning to the question, “What is love?” For these guys, love seems to be fantasy fulfillment: they want a young, beautiful wife who appreciates them and shows it, unlike their ungrateful exes. They don’t consider the actual feelings and personalities of their partners. Then the film does a neat trick by slowly shifting perspective to the women. We learn about their struggles in Ukraine, the motivation for signing up to the service, and the pain of saying goodbye to their families for a new life in the U.S.
Although the pairings have varying outcomes, the common theme is self-delusion. One story culminates in an amazingly tense confrontation in a Ukrainian apartment. Like much of ‘Love Me,’ the scene is by turns fascinating, funny, and sad.