"She's not just a computer."
Her is a beautiful and melancholic film written and directed by Spike Jonze which benefits from a wonderful and sweet performance from Joaquin Phoenix (who goes through a 180 degree transformation from his disturbed and troubling character in The Master to this sympathetic one) and one of the best voice performances I've seen on screen from Scarlett Johansson. I wonder if this film would've worked without her considering that Samantha Morton was originally the voice of Samantha, and only during the editing process did Jonze feel something was missing and decided to recast Johansson. In a film like Her where the need for connection is vital, Jonze found it between Phoenix and Johansson creating a believable and unique love story. It is a touching film that the audience can identify with because it deals with universal themes such as trying to move on from past relationships that we thought would last forever and the void that's left from it. Phoenix captures that melancholy perfectly through his facial expressions contrasted with those flashback scenes where he seemed blissfuly in love. This need for connection is perfectly represented in this film, which also manages to introduce a social commentary as to where we seem to be heading with all the technological advances. The sci-fi elements work really well because we definitely seem to be heading towards this futuristic world and Jonze blends those elements with this beautiful and sad love story. Her is philosophical at times and despite turning into a pretty much standard love story halfway through the film it still manages to be a great meditation on our need as humans for establishing connections (and they no longer need to be human connections). Her is a genuinely nostalgic romantic film that manages to touch its audience and speak to the heart.
The story centers on Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) a letter writer who's been separated from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) for an year, but still hasn't found the strength to sign the divorce papers. He is very good at his job as he excels at expressing feelings through letters, but he's not doing so well at managing his own feelings around others. He is rather lonely and spends most of his time playing video games when he's not at work. He does have a very close friendship with his neighbors, Amy (Amy Adams) and Charles (Matt Letscher), especially with Amy as they both seem to share a sort of brother sisterly kind of love. His life turns around when he purchases a new artificially intelligent operating system, OS1, and immediately connects with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the voice behind the system. As they continue to spend more time together they begin falling in love with each other which excites Theodore because he's starting to feel alive again, but at the same time fills him with doubts and fears as he's conflicted about having a relationship with an operating system. Samantha also begins to grow intellectually as she experiences new things and is capable of having human emotions. Their unconventional love is what's explored in this film as the two connect and bond with each other.
Jonze has crafted a very unique and original story which I found to be a great psychological study on human relations. I wish I would've connected more with this film as I've found it to be on most of my friends top 10 lists for best films of the year, and despite liking this film quite a bit it still didn't manage to make my list. The premise is very interesting and Jonze directs this film masterfully, but I couldn't help and feel that halfway through the film it does become a rather conventional love story (at times it felt like a normal long distance relationship) with some familiar trials that couples go through. I actually never felt a true connection in their relationship until a key moment near the end of the film and that is where I really bought their love story. The elements I connected the most with where the nostalgic feelings of lost love as we got to see some interesting flashbacks between Theodore and Catherine. I also loved the score of this film, the music was lovely and touching. I also enjoyed the social commentary quite a bit which never felt forced. The scene where Theodore is worried about how he will be perceived by his friends for having a relationship like this and how relieved he is when Amy approves is proof that we not only seek connections in life, but we also search for social approval. It's a clever and melancholic film and one that we can all come out of experiencing something completely different (and that is a good thing).