Following his impressive Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and the not so impressive Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze returns with his most thought provoking, socially aware and nuanced film yet, Her.
Her stars Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely writer, Theodore Twombly, who in the not so distant future spends his days writing about other people’s relationships whilst being unable to let go of his last one. The divorce papers, which he is unable to sign, loom over him as he spends his days either playing video games or immersing himself within his job. Everything changes, however, when he acquires a new operating system, the OS1. Voiced by the seductive Scarlett Johansson, she is the first computer programme with artificial intelligence. Their relationship soon evolves past her simply helping him with his emails, to that of a relationship based on a thirst for life. Theodore finds a voice unburdened by harsh reality that allows him to rediscover the world around him, while Samantha (the name the OS1 chooses for herself) is a mind that is constantly expanding and, with the innocence of a young child, yearns to experience all that an infinite amount of knowledge can offer. Their love feels real and proves that compatibility, conversation and understanding is far more important in a relationship than physical superficiality.
This film is surprising and exceptional, as it does not go down the predictable route of having Theodore’s relationship with the computer programme be judged and shunned by those around him. In fact, they all accept it as natural and the film even shows others engaging in similar relationships. This poses the question whether all the criticism of the digital age and the stunted relationships it forms really is justifiable? Or is it simply the natural progression of things where lonely introverts have a means to form a connection in a world that is simultaneously getting smaller, yet creating more distance between us? Furthermore, this film has a surprising conclusion where the choices made do not follow the expected course leaving questions that will stay with you long after the credits.
Her is an atmospheric, beautifully shot film with brilliant dialogue that allows the viewer to fully believe the connection forming between Theodore and Samantha; making the romance between a computer and human one of the most down to earth, believable relationships portrayed on screen in a long time.