What a breathtakingly special piece of cinema that Spike Jonze has given to us in Her. It’s at once daring and elegantly simple in both premise and execution, whose elements all come together stupendously. I found myself powerfully connecting to the characters in this world. I wanted to belong in it and with them well past the 126 minutes I was permitted. Forever in rhythm with them, I felt their highs and their lows with smiles, chuckles and almost tears. I could’ve sat in that cinema for hours afterwards, pondering what Jonze just added to my life with this beautiful and hugely affecting film on relationships and romance.
Man falls in love with Siri. Like Lars and the Real Girl this easy joke is never made into a mockery. Man doesn’t just fall in love with Siri – all inhabitants want to fall in love with Siri, or whatever OS has been programmed to best fit their personality. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) has Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) and their relationship evolves with captivating authenticity. The acting, clever writing and intimate cinematography present a naturalistic portrayal that’s a joy to watch unfold. Their challenges are no less valid than that of Theodore’s best friend Amy (Amy Adams) and her husband Charles (Matt Letscher), or the one’s any of us may sadly be going through. Phoenix is a revelation as the always accessible protagonist, but praise must not be neglected for the extraordinary vocal performance from Scarlett Johansson. I could feel every pulsation of her heart and, like Phoenix, experienced her completely through just her voice. She’s the most alive thing in the picture.
Jonze blends this “modern romance” with a poignant message on the despair linked to the uncertainty of ourselves in solitude. Everyone in this world is distant from each other. They’re fixated in their gaze at a palm sized screen when walking down the street, monotonously communicating instructions to their computer OS’ instead of communicating with their fellow humans. There’s a duality to this isolation – it can lead to a warm connection that becomes the consumed infatuation we know as love, but it’s ultimately a poorly nourishing distraction. That Samantha ends up needing 8,316 friends (and loving 641 of them) illustrates our innate problem at feeling content in our loneliness.
The films optimistic and satisfying conclusion moves from Theodore’s bedroom, with its window-wall architecture that he hides behind ironically open to the world, as we see Theodore and Amy connecting on the rooftop overlooking a vast city of possibilities for connection. This society – which is brilliantly depicted in its costume and set design, giving off a perfect vibe of a believable not too distant future – has a communal lesson to learn from this experience. One that Jonze wants us to take heed from as well in our possible technological addictions.