Her is beautiful and uncomfortable. It is a film about how far people are willing to go to fabricate the very things that make us human. Spike Jonze has crafted a sublime film that tackles the subject of human emotion with a deft touch. It is a slightly sci-fi love story that takes place in the near future under the most unusual of circumstances.
Theodore Twombley has recently split with his wife and he is merely existing. He avoids his old friends and splits his time fairly evenly between playing video games, having late night internet sex chats, and staring vaguely into space. He is haunted by the break up and has adopted a melancholic disposition as his face for the world having spent nearly a year withdrawing further into himself. Ironically, Theodore is employed as a letter writer for a company that specializes in crafting personal letters for people. If you want to send a letter to your husband to celebrate your anniversary you just send some information to the company and they will craft a heartfelt letter on your behalf. Memories can be manufactured.
There is a new operating system on the market for the bluetooth like devices that are widely prevalent and Theodore is not prepared for the ramifications of his purchase. The operating system’s selling point is that it’s intuitive. It changes and grows the way humans do. Theodore answers a few questions and the OS is programmed specifically for him. A voice enters his earpiece and he is forever changed. This doesn’t sound like a computer and it isn’t long until Theodore is letting this OS fully into his life. Not long after that he has fallen in love.
Joaquin Phoenix grounds Theodore with a morose vulnerability that makes every action seem reasonable. There are few actors that can project hopelessness from their eyes and Phoenix takes it a step further by letting glimpses of joy break through in very guarded ways. It is a wonderful performance and one that can both enrich and devastate. Phoenix is also given the help of Scarlett Johansson’s voice in his ear. Johansson is amazing with only her voice to work with. She makes the self-named Samantha come alive and gives it a personality that never rings fake. What Phoenix and Johansson do with these characters is remarkable.
Her works on every level. It is a story of love, loss, hope, communication, and the dirtiness of being human. There are questions throughout the film that touch on subjects that are both unique and universal. How much technology will we allow into our lives? Why do we feel that we can be more honest with a computer than we can with people? What defines a relationship and is it only valid if society is ok with it? The film asks all of these and many more, but often leaves the answers to the audience. Spike Jonze has brilliantly sidestepped any moralizing and left us with a poignant and graceful story about love in a digital age. Every frame of this film is wonderful and is most definitely worthy of an audience.