More than simply a tale about an alienated man who falls in love with his computer operating system, Spike Jonze’s Her is a thought-provoking and prophetic film about the future of relationships. Set in a futuristic sterile LA, the science fiction film is beautifully sick in its almost dystopian representation of human relationships. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a lonely man struggling with the ghost of his married past. After purchasing a new operating system – which he initially uses as an email organiser – he quickly forms a friendship with it; a strong mental bond that is not dependent on physicality. Unable to sustain healthy relationships with real women, Theodore finds himself falling in love with Samantha (OS), played by Scarlett Johansson.
Theodore and Samantha’s relationship begins to emulate all the positive and negative aspects of a physical relationship. Samantha’s high-tech programming enables her to feel human emotions such as jealousy, lust and love. A particularly disturbing scene involves Samantha hiring a surrogate body to fulfill what she can’t physically with Theodore – the surrogate female being used as a means to an end in the same way a surrogate parent would be used today. Samantha is incredibly intelligent and communicative and consequently, their love grows into something even more genuine than other various physical relationships displayed throughout the film.
Her is prophetic in its depiction of the growing sterility of human relationships and our increasing dependence on computers. Our relationships with our operating systems is extrapolated as a means of hypothesising the extreme possibilities of technology. Instead of perpetuating new physical connections, we are hiding behind our screens, seeking solace in the virtual world and making friends with multiple avatars. Spike Jonze’s original screenplay creates a world in which operating systems are everyone’s best friends and intimate lovers, perfectly imperfect and available.
Both Phoenix and Johansson play the sweetest roles in their careers yet. While Johansson usually plays the ice queen in her physical roles, it is ironic to hear nothing but warmth in her vocal performance. The film also features Amy Adams as Theodore’s best friend, who like Scarlett has proved her versatility in both art house and blockbuster films (The Master, American Hustle, Man Of Steel).
The women in the film are hardly wearing any make-up and all look quite haggard, a nuance that only serves to reinforce the enigmatic Samantha. These female bodies are not objects of lust for Theodore anymore, as he has become completely fixated with the mind, voice and spirit of Samantha. So on the one hand, the film is magnifying the successful absence of physical importance and on the other, it is amplifying the unsuccessful relationships between real human bodies, i.e. between Theodore and his wife and between Amy (Adams) and her husband. Incredibly positive in one sense, it is still technically a dystopia in its disheartening portrayal of human connections.
A realistic insight into the inevitable (Yes, I am a cynic), Her is my pick for the Oscars.