Her: The Passionate Man And His Pursuit Of The One

In Her, Jonze highlights the importance of non-romantic relationships and self-love in feeling connected and fulfilled
Her: The Passionate Man And His Pursuit Of The One

Simone De Beauvoir talked about the idea of 'The Passionate Man' in her book – The Ethics of Ambiguity. According to Beauvoir, the passionate man is someone who is caught up in the pursuit of his desire and has constructed a narrative in his head that he is incomplete without it. Most often, the object of desire is a partner. He feels that lack of a partner or soulmate is the reason for all his problems and once he meets 'the one', his life will change for the better and he will be happy and complete. He attaches himself to this narrative of finding 'the one' who will make everything feel all right so much that he denies himself the freedom to feel complete and seek happiness without this romantic interest. For generations, books and films have peddled this idea of 'the one' and most of us have also grown up believing in this very idea. Perhaps, this could be one of the reasons behind the loneliness epidemic. This feeling of loneliness and incompleteness forms the basis of Spike Jonze's slice of life science fiction film, Her.

In the opening scene of the film, we meet Jonze's passionate man – Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix). He is a professional writer and his work involves writing personal letters for people who cannot write themselves. Although he is writing for his clients and what they feel, he also seems to put a lot of himself in those letters. Like Theodore, most of his colleagues seem to be emotionally immersed in the letters they write. The film then takes us into the everyday life of Theodore. He comes across as sad and lonely. Besides feeling lonely, he also thinks he is the only one going through this loneliness, which makes him feel even worse. This is represented through the colours Jonze uses. Theodore is wearing a bright red jacket while everything in the background, be it people or objects, have muted cool colours. The only time, both Theodore and the frame, come alive is when he thinks about his soon to be ex-wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara). He lives in the good memories of his marriage and feels broken without her. He longs to be with someone who can make him feel complete. Perhaps, this is what makes him download the artificially intelligent operating system. He also chooses to have a female voice. He is delighted to know that his operating system (Scarlett Johansson) has a name – Samantha and that she talks like a regular human being.

As the film progresses, we see Theodore spending more and more time talking to Samantha. He lets his guards down while he speaks as if he is writing a letter. For the first time, we see him smiling, laughing and having a good time. Samantha not only feels real to him, she also makes him come alive. This is represented through the change in the colour palette of the frames, from a cooler to a warmer palette. He doesn't stand out against the frames, which is symbolic of him feeling less lonely and alone. As he falls in love with Samantha, he also begins to notice and relish the environment around him, be it sitting in the sun or lying down on a beach, all by himself. He also begins to take more interest in his friend, Amy's (Amy Adams) life and her problems. He realises that he he is not the only one who felt incomplete and this shared experience brings them closer.

Amidst falling in love with Samantha, he completely forgets that she is an operating system, at the end of the day. His bubble breaks when Catherine points out to him that he always wanted a wife who can give him the emotional support without him having to deal with her emotional baggage. This is when both, Theodore and the audience realise that the reason for his loneliness is the narrative in his head. He thinks he needs 'the one' to feel all right but what he actually needs is the mental bandwidth to process the pain and heal from that pain. He seeks instant gratification and sweeps his problems under the carpet. He does not realises that his loneliness comes from a lack of acceptance of himself and this makes him hold back his real feelings when he is with Catherine or a friend. This is also what makes him feel less connected and eventually isolates him from the people and the environment around him, making him a slave to his own narrative.

Theodore seems to be the perfect example of Beauvoir's 'The Passionate Man'. When the film begins, Theodore is lost in his own world. He is so blinded by the idea of romantic love that he is unable to experience other aspects of life. As he falls in love with Samantha, he begins to feel that his life has a purpose. This newfound sense of purpose makes him feel alive and rejuvenated. Through the course of the film, Theodore and the audience, realise the flawed nature of this utopian narrative and the loneliness it brings. We also realise that loneliness is a shared experience and that we don't necessarily need a romantic partner to feel connected. In Her, Jonze highlights the importance of non-romantic relationships and self-love in feeling connected and fulfilled.

Related Stories

No stories found.