Directed by: Spike Jonze
R. 120 mins
Posing some very complex questions involving human consciousness, freedom, limits, and an ever-expanding connection with technology, Her is a film that reminds us that perhaps the most devastatingly simple of all life’s struggles is the process of falling in, and out, of love.
Written and directed by the imaginative Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are), the film tells the story of recently-divorced Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who worries that he’s never going to feel anything new and that he’s already experienced the tremendous highs and lows that life has to offer. Depressed and somewhat of a recluse, Theodore lives alone in a spacious, yet artfully designed condo that overlooks the not-so-distant future Los Angeles. Accused of being emotionally withdrawn by his ex (Rooney Mara), and still hopelessly in love with her, Theodore finds it difficult to connect with the people around him. At work, he writes thoughtful letters to complete strangers wishing them happy birthdays and anniversaries in a cubicle surrounded by many other people who write the same sentiments to people all over the world – this being one of many small, but effective changes that Jonze has made to our future. Just when things seem to be hitting a desperate low for Theodore, a new operating system hits the market promising a highly advanced artificial intelligence that will grow and learn with time. He purchases one, in a sort of careless “why not” manner, and quickly discovers that Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is everything he needs. Communicating via a small earpiece, Samanatha and Theodore have an instant connection – they make each other laugh and understand one another on a deep level. Using a small camera, Theodore takes Samantha with him everywhere so that she can see just what he sees. She even reads his emails and helps to organize his cluttered life as their relationship grows stronger and Samantha’s intelligence expands to a point where they even engage in sex (!) and profess their love for one another.
Set in a beautifully modern – but not too modern – future, we see that people drift amongst each other, constantly connected to their devices but rarely to each other. The cinematography is dreamy, much like Jonze’s previous work, and even the soundtrack has a magical simplicity to it which makes this science-fiction love story one that’s actually quite relatable and for some, may even prove unsettling given it’s poignancy. The themes call to mind films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, another film that captures the difficulty and tremendous need, to move on from past relationships because ultimately, “the past is just a story we tell ourselves.”
With a surprising amount of wonderfully bizarre humour and quiet vulnerability from the gifted ensemble cast, the relationship between Theodore and his OS, Samantha, helps both parties develop a self awareness they never had. While the concept may be *alien* to some viewers, the story is entirely human and the sentiments ring true. Despite slight repetitiveness, this is a tremendously thoughtful work that is both a pleasurable and painfully emotional experience for all. Taking a unique and highly perceptive look at companionship and compromise, Her is a soulful work of art that proves there is plenty of imagination left in Hollywood.