A beautiful film about love and loneliness in the technological age is the first must-see of 2014.
January 13, 2014
"Siri — write my Her review".
"[da-dup]…I'm not sure I understand".
So, it's not perfect, but the fact is, I just had a conversation with my phone. What's more, I didn't feel weird about it, and — most crucially — neither did the people around me. It's for this reason that Spike Jonze's new movie Her feels eerily and uncomfortably plausible. Familiar, even. In fact, inevitable.
Set in the almost certainly near future, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly — a gentle, retiring man who works at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com penning heartfelt correspondence between people he's never met. In his personal life, his wife (Rooney Mara) has left him and now communicates exclusively via their lawyers. In short, nobody really talks anymore.
Then one day he buys and installs a new operating system called 'OS1' — an artificially intelligent construct that names herself, or rather itself, 'Samantha' (voiced to perfection by Scarlett Johansson). At first Samantha simply streamlines Theodore's life, triaging his emails and encouraging him to get out more, but gradually, as she evolves and learns more from their interactions, they begin to fall in love.
It seems ridiculous, yes, but thanks to Jonze's masterful script and direction, it never really feels it, and that's what makes HER the first must-see film of 2014.
"Is it a real relationship?" Theodore asks his best friend (a game designer played by Amy Adams), to which she replies: "Well… what is real?" It sounds like hack freshman philosophy but actually cuts to the core of the film, because — in essence — Theodore's relationship is largely indistinguishable from every real-world, long-distance one. In this increasingly international age where overseas employment and study opportunities beckon with greater frequency and ease, it often feels like the number one obstacle for couples to overcome is mere geography.
Hence, nobody bats an eyelid when two people attempt to sustain a relationship exclusively and indefinitely via phone calls, meaning — to the outside world — Theodore's interactions with Samantha are just as commonplace and unremarkable.
And ultimately, who's to say they're not? Look around you right now. How many people are on their phones — talking, listening, scrolling, reading or playing? The loneliness and isolation of an increasingly interconnected world is a pervasive and fascinating phenomenon, but few have yet explored how humanity's growing fusion with technology might lead to actual relationships with it. Well, except maybe for the Japanese.
To say much more is to risk giving away precious moments and quiet surprises (of which there are many), though it's worth noting Her pleasantly avoids a lot of tech in-jokes and future gags that could easily have rendered it a far more pedestrian affair. Ultimately, it is a beautiful, imaginative and provocative offering by Jonze that asks some fascinating questions about the direction love is taking in the technological age. Could we love an operating system, and — more importantly — could it love us back?
"Siri - do you love me?"
"[da-dup] Look…a puppy!"
Man, love is hard.