Theodore (Joaquin Pheonix) is trapped in a melancholic vortex of mundane repetition. Devoid of substantial human contact since his break up with his soon to be ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara), his talent for connecting with and observing human emotion shines through in his work as a letter writer. He constantly finds himself in private reflection and his interractions with other people are superficial at best. His only real friend is Amy (Amy Adams) who is similar to Theodore in a number of ways and their friendship provides a solid base of humanity in an otherwise surrealist view of society.
Theodore, in his depressed state reaches out to an operating system (OS1) to cater to his needs. Simple things like organising email soon take a back seat as his OS takes on frighteningly realistic human characteristics. Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is the remedy Theodore needed to bring him a new lease of life and it/she becomes so much more than a computer to him. I must admit, at times the notion of a man falling in love with his computer did make me question where this movie was headed. But I stuck it out and was rewarded with a powerful message that lurks beneath the shiny surface of soft focus future.
Her serves as a powerful sociological essay on the realtionship between humans and machines and the dangers that over exposure and dependence can have. Samantha brings us back down to earth with her earth shattering matter of fact tone, at least to Theodore, that at the end of the day we are different. As she goes on to explain, human hearts have a limit to emotion. Artificial intelligence has the ability to expand knowledge, emotion, understanding and ultimately exist outside of the human confines of time and space.
The burgeoning relationship that forms between Theodore and Samantha is an original love story that we can all relate to on some level. Although Samantha is an artificially intelligent operating system the feelings of discovery, happiness and love are all there and Theodore, in his lonely state, can’t help but get caught up in his new found relationship that brings happiness back into his life.
I must admit that I found the first half of the film slightly uncomfortable, but that could have been because I was watching it with my parents, I strongly advise against this approach! As they agreed the film wasn’t for them I powered through and as an independent viewing it made me wonder at Spike Jonze’s directing capabilities. The mind boggling eye for detail can be a little abstract at times but it frames Theodore’s loneliness and contemplation in a world that we recognise so as to allow the viewer to relate and engage with the subject.
There’s no denying that visually and emotionally this film hits on a number of levels even if the premise is a little overwhelming at times. For anyone who has read any Philip K. Dick short stories or novels, or has seen I-Robot will know that artificial intelligence is a marvel but it also has the dangerous capacity to overcome its design and stretch the boundaries of its existence. Theodore develops maddening feelings of love and confusion as he and Samantha grow closer and yet further apart at the same time.
For originality Her does everything right. It delivers an original take on a love story that we are all too familiar and it leaves us challenging our notions of society and that of future society. Where will technological developments eventually take us? Although clearly set in the future, this amalgamtion of drama, romance and sci-fi highlights some obvious flaws in society and the direction that we are headed. For starters Theodore’s job is to compose letters, deeply sentimental private letters for clients that are sent to their loved ones. There is no doubt about Theodore’s writing capabilities and his understanding of human emotion but he struggles to balance his own feelings while in a human relationship. His relationship with Samantha is perfect for the exact reason that he doesn’t have to deal with the baggage that he sees in relationships. So we have to ask the question, is this because of Theodore’s past relationships, most notably with Catherine? Or is it because he is a product of a future paced society that takes shortcuts through the middle of an historically sociological dependency on human contact?
For its challenge of society, brilliant cast and original story Her is certainly worth sticking it out. It isn’t for everyone as my parents made sure to voice but I didn’t come away thinking I had wasted my time. It is definitely a Brilliant experience. Not something you should drop everything for but certainly worth catching if an opportunity arises.
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