John Adams, presumably no relation to the second President of the United States, is the co-founder of A Foreign Affair, a company dedicated to helping lonely American men find wives overseas. But before you say “Russian brides?”, be advised that the women AFA offers to connect you with are from many destinations in Eastern Europe, and all are eager to meet American men no matter their means, looks or likes. And yes, Adams knows this because not only does he run a matching-making site, but he also knows the benefits of marrying a Russian woman, as his partner in business and in life is Tanya.
Now, you’re probably sitting there thinking about the idea of Russians brides, and if you haven’t already started laughing outright, it might be bubbling just beneath the surface. The rest of you might be intrigued, and that’s fine, because it’s to you that the movie might appeal. This is a documentary for the open-minded bachelor who is perhaps tired of the domestic dating scene, and the dating game, and just looking for a lady to settle down with who feels the same. But Russian brides? Ukrainian brides? Romanian? Was this not a fad, or a sitcom gag from the 80s?
Perhaps. But then again, the men profiled in the documentary Love Me are quite sincere. Ron was married for 26 years, but after marrying his childhood sweetheart at 18, he felt taken advantage of so he got a divorce. Eric, a mechanical engineer and avid NRA member, has never had a serious relationship. Travis milks cows in Wisconsin farm country, where the female pickings of the human variety are pretty slim. And Bobby is a government worker, and is maybe the one member of the cast who fulfills the stereotype, surrounded by enough sci-fi memorabilia that would make even Sheldon Cooper say, “Too much.”
The obvious question is, why are these men unable to meet women in their own backyard? That one never really gets answered, and is kind of brushed off by the various men featured in the movie. The directors kind of let it slide too, and you’ve got to wonder why since the next obvious question is the price tag. The whirlwind social event tours that the AFA takes single American men on are quite expensive, and every e-mail sent through the service is $10 a pop (including translation). Dinner and a movie is cheaper than 10 e-mails, right? And Bobby, the science fiction aficionado, spends close to $10,000 on e-mails with one girl in particular, and their relationship goes nowhere.
So are these guys hideous, or just completely socially awkward? Neither, actually. Perhaps the only thing they really need is some confidence building. And the women? It’s hard not to wonder just how sincere they are and whether or not they’re just playing nice for the green card, or possibly a cut of that $10 e-mail money. The movie does toy with the idea that some of these hopeful romantics are being taken to the cleaners, but still, there are some genuine girls here. Inna, for example, who is introduced to gun nut/engineer Eric, seems sweet enough, and being unmarried at the age of 30 her parents are worried that she’s wasted her life and will die alone.
While Eric makes a love match, Michael from Australia travels through the dark side of “international introductions,” and ends up married to Svetlana, who’s not only sure she wants to be wed to Michael, but is stringing a couple of other guys along online as well. Those are the two stark examples, but mostly for these men, it’s back to window shopping online and saving for another trip overseas. It’s more sad than anything, actually, and maybe that’s the point. The difficulty in trying to find a way to connect to others, and the twin assumptions that the computer is smarter than you and is making the world smaller, may be selling a snake oil love potion to a lot of desperate men.
Tanya Adams says early on that the motto for AFA is that “true love knows no boundaries.” Maybe so, but true love also knows no easy fix, and does not just spring up just because you’ve widened the area you’re looking for it in. The entire endeavour seems like a Shakespearean comedy (a Comedy of Errors?) at times, and director Jonathon Narducci should be commended for stifling both the laughs and the pity. By the end of Love Me, you’re definitely rooting for these guys, but that only reinforces the question that never gets answered: why can’t they get a date in the continental U.S.?
Love Me is an impersonal look at the idea of American men paying to meet potential brides in Eastern Europe. It offers great access, but demands very little.