Her (2013) – Spike Jonze

Her written and directed by Spike Jonze, sees Joaquin Phoenix’s character Theodore, build a relationship with an operating system named Samantha (voice by Scarlett Johansson). The film also stars Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt and Olivia Wilde. But it is wholly centered on Theodore’s character and the intimacy that builds between him and Samantha, while also exploring the implications this has.

Theodore is a lonely man, who plays video games in his spare time, engages in online forums for phone sex and doesn’t socially engage much with friends following a separation. The film could steer towards the creepy loner man and his only ally the robot, and there is a scene with SexyKitten (voiced by Kristen Wig) in which the scale could have tipped. But Jonze’s script imbues Theodore with innocence and a gentleness, that makes us root for him. Such that when he is called a “creep” after a date, we feel angered by that character’s lack of understanding of who he is. The ways in which humans interact with technology is expansive and unlimited – it has clearly become pivotal to humanity today, and the same way Theodore clings to Samantha for comfort is all too reflective of our modern society. Samantha’s A.I. consciousness fills a void for Theodore.

As with other films that address artificial intelligence, questions are raised surrounding the extent to which they can be considered to have feelings and to what extent these feelings are ‘real’. But I found that the film does not address these issues in a removed or detached way, instead we watch Theodore’s relationship with Samantha intensify and their struggle in trying to navigate what this means and how it works. Throughout the course of the film Samantha evolves and grows, she has a connection with Theodore that she explains does not stem from any logical foundation, it just is. Samantha craves a body and her desire for physical sensations and her excitement at her range of emotions feel refreshing. She is playful, her voice has character, and she brings warmth to Theodore’s life.

The cinematography, by Hoyte Van Hoytema, is gorgeous, the colour grading is fantastic also. Theodore’s wardrobe feels 70s inspired and red, a colour Theodore wears recurringly, pops in these scenes. Not only does the film look great, but the tone and feel of the film work wonderfully with the emotion that shines through in the multitude of beautiful moments that the film offers. A favourite of mine is when Theodore is at the beach with Samantha and she creates music to convey how she feels being there with him. In this way the film is tender, and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is able to convey an exquisite vulnerability that the role requires.

The film hinges on these great performances. Joaquin Phoenix of course makes this film, but I found Amy Adams gave a pleasing performance also. The film feels advanced and futuristic, but the sci-fi element of Samantha’s consciousness does not feel far off from becoming a reality. Her is a science-fiction romantic film that is a pleasure to watch.

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