Starring : Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson
Director : Spike Jonze
Release Date : 16 Jan 2014
HER is about connections, both literal and otherwise – our near-constant link with technology as a means of being connected, cleverly conflated with the ties we forge with the people around us. The film asks: if it has never been easier to connect with someone, why then do most of us feel lonelier than ever?
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely writer who works for a company that provides personalised handwritten letters. Currently dealing with an impending divorce, he is unable to open up to those around him, even while he pens beautiful, passionate letters for his clients.
When h e buys a new operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence that is designed to learn and evolve intuitively, little does he expect that it will come to play such a significant part in his life.
Theodore gives the OS a female identity, and in turn, it names its elf “Samantha” and speaks in the thr oaty voice of Scarlett Johansson. As she becomes intimately familiar with every aspect of Theodore’s life through his digital interactions, the two become closer and closer, bonding over their constant conversations.
This set up ma y seem like science fiction, but it is used to examine some very real questions about contemporary relationships, such as, what makes a relationship “real”? In a time when communication doesn’t have to be in person, is it possible to fall in love without ever having a physical connection?
And is such a relationship necessarily free from the messiness of a real-life one?
Written and directed by Spike Jonze, who is known for helming mind-bending movies like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, Her is equally odd. Yet, the premise of Her never seems outlandish, thanks to the brilliant way in which the film visualises the future it is set in – one that is near enough that it just seems like a natural progression from our Facebook-sharing, online dating, sexting present.
As we watch people in the fil m walk with earpieces and communicate with their devices, it seems entirely plausible that one could have a more real relationship with their OS than with the people around them.
The look of the film perfectly complements the script, with pastels and bright colours in the set and c ostumes contrasting with smooth, shiny surfaces to evoke a kind of techno-casual feel. The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is lovely, a combination
of extended close-ups and surprisinglyangled point-of-view shots of cityscapes and people – a coming together of how Theodore and Samantha view the world.
Meanwhile, th e music, by Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett, is subtle, yet soulful and affecting.
Much of the movie’s power comes from Phoenix’s fantastic performance. Carrying most of the scenes on his own, his Theodore is sad, charming, nerdy and lovable all at once, and Phoenix masterfully uses small changes to his expression and body language to present a wonderfully complex yet relatable character. This, combined with Johansson’s expressive voice work, really makes us believe in and even, odd as it may seem, root for Theodore and Samantha.
The other women in Theodore’s life, his best friend Amy (Amy Adams) and his ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara), are effective counterpoints to his relationship with Samantha, depicting both the advantages and limitations of a real-life relationship, and both actresses make their marks with limited screentime.
Ultimately, Her’s strength lies in the way its story connects with us, and our own stories of love, loss and loneliness. It may be more than a little quirky, yet it is also a sweet and accessible piece of work with great emotional resonance, so much so that you see yourself in many of the people and experiences onscreen.