Movie Review: Her

Spike Jonez has created a futuristic sonnet with his film Her. It’s a not so typical boy-meets-operating system romance.

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Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man in the final stages of his divorce from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). He lives a lonely life, writing personal and intimate letters for other people. Bored, depressed and alone, he decides to purchase the new OS1, which is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness,” the ad states. Theodore quickly finds himself drawn in with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the voice behind his OS1. As they start spending time together they grow closer and closer and eventually find themselves in love. Having fallen in love with his OS, Theodore finds himself dealing with feelings of both great joy and doubt. (IMDb)

Watching Her feels like watching a dream – everything washed in sherbet color, mellow lighting, intriguing Shanghai skylines have substituted the Los Angeles landscape, effortless pace, gorgeous cinematography, and a breezy gorgeous soundtrack. There’s a stillness to this film, sparse in its action, but overflowing with beautiful and poetic words. Spike Jonez (Being John Malkovich, Where The Wild Things Are) has always been a quirky romantic, and he’s crafted a weird little romance.

Often science-fiction tales set in the “not too distant future” are overblown with technology and elaborate costumes – in Her, the future is refreshingly modest. The film is effortless, not to be confused with simple. Theodore finds himself in an odd and complicated relationship with a voice from a machine. The love that Samantha and Theodore share is beautiful, were it not for one complication – the fact that she isn’t “real”.

Joaquin Phoenix has always been excellent at playing outsiders. Theodore’s isolation, loneliness, heartache and tentative happiness, is captured in every movement – his slouched shoulders, mumbling speech and rueful smiles. This film wouldn’t have been so charming without Joaquin Phoenix’s defeated and soulful portrayal of Theodore.

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Scarlett Johansson’s voice is pitch-perfect for an alluring and somehow human sounding Samantha – just the right amount of raspy breathlessness to enchant not only Theodore, but the entire audience.

As Theodore battles with the state of his relationships, we see the world around him, as crowded as it is, become more detached. People in his world aren’t interacting with each other, rather, they’re interacting with their machines.

Her is an intriguing critique on our societal dependence on technology. Have you ever left your phone at home? Somehow, that can leave you feeling a little bereft, as if something is missing, and as if you’re missing the connection you have to other people.  We spend so much time on social media that we forget to be social. Technology is evolving at such an astonishing pace – but are we evolving as the human race? As Theodore puts it “Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.” None of these questions are blatantly thrown at the audience, but it has made for some interesting conversation outside of the theatre.

In Her, a lonely man finds love in the digital age. The result is an original and wistful story – philosophical, and strangely intimate for a film about a man in love with a machine.

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Her is nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Original Score, Original Song, Production Design and Original Screenplay (Spike Jonez).

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