I feel pinkish and light. I feel sunlight touching the skin of my back at three o’clock in the morning. Delight, along with all sorts of previously undiscovered emotions, is sweeping across me as if I’m struck by a windstorm. It doesn’t happen often when a film seems tailor-made for me. So when I say this film is perfect, I mean it is perfect for me. This is not a term I use lightly and it is certainly not one representing any objective assessment of this film. I’ve always felt that the purpose of art is to allow us to learn something about ourselves, whether as a person or as a species.
With Her, Spike Jonze has given this generation, and hopefully many more, the greatest romance of our time, with a spin that is handled with love and care even though it is also there to poke a bit of fun at our diminishing human interaction. I was dead certain Richard Linklater had a firm grip on that honour, but for me, personally, this goes above and beyond the Before trilogy. Set in a pastel-coloured dystopia, Her exists in a timeless future where people are permanently connected through technology but exist solely within their own self-made worlds. It’s a prescient future that is not too far removed from our own social media-dominated existence.
Phoenix, buried behind a fuzzy moustache and horn-rimmed spectacles, is shorn of his usual pent-up intensity. Instead he is a sympathetic introvert who emerges from his shell through his unorthodox relationship. Jonze has written a protagonist for the 21st-century male, picking up on the small weaknesses and vulnerabilities in most of us. While watching this, I became fully aware that this film has a very male approach to the relationship. It is very much about possession and ego. Theodore is one of the most human characters I’ve seen in a while. He is fallible, self-conscious and out of touch with his emotions. Funnily enough, he is matched with an AI that is about as human as him. The voice acting of Scarlett Johansson is so fantastic that she manages to establish a fully fleshed-out character just by speaking. It’s also one of the finest supporting roles I’ve seen. Or, you know, heard.
In Amy (Amy Adams) we get the story’s hope for human love and interaction. In a world with a decreasing amount of face-to-face time, not unlike our own, Amy and Theodore’s relationship is Jonze’s hope for the human race. It’s the silver lining that assures us that although you can find almost all you desire in the world of artificial intelligence, technology is still faulty, and at the end of the day it is the human relationships you establish along your way that are there to lend you their shoulder. Because when it’s all said and done, the touch of another is still something truly special and should never be taken for granted.
Jonze even manages to brilliantly recreate those early giddy moments of a new romance when it seems like there are only two people in the entire world. I love how Theodore laughs and dances around with indifference to the world around him when he’s in love.
I’ve adored every film Spike Jonze has carefully crafted from the Kaufman-penned mind-benders to his heartfelt adaptation of a children’s classic. Her may be science-fiction, but it is one of the most real movies I’ve seen in quite some time. Like Before Midnight, it exposes the ugly side of romance and the fragility of the human heart: how people are capable of loving and hurting the ones they love the most.
The film’s bittersweet final act in particular is beautifully conceived, not only in the realisation of their faltering relationship and Samantha’s capacity to love beyond human understanding, but also in the way an artificial connection awakens Theodore’s appreciation for human companionship. It’s about our basic need for a connection and our innate fear of losing ourselves within it. We shouldn’t fear real emotions, we should embrace them and learn from them. And the beautiful irony is that Theodore learns this from something that is a simulation of humanity, something many of us, myself included, regard as the root of the problem. Sometimes you need the void to show you what’s really important. And we should never forget that our capacity to adapt and truly feel things is what makes us human. The anti-social nature of most social media is an intriguing paradox, filling a void and creating a need at the same time.
The film radiates warmth and intelligence, and there is a fair amount of witty humor to ensure that it never becomes too self-serious. It has an engaging style similar to that of Sofia Coppola‘s Lost In Translation. Like in that film, there’s a certain poetic yet whimsical quality to the dialogue in Her, and both the main characters are plagued by feelings of loneliness.
What we are witness to is an evolving relationship that in all its impossibilities never feels unreal. It goes through all the phases most relationships go through and therein lies its strength. By choosing a very human perspective, the cascade of emotions Theodore and Samantha go through is extremely relatable, making the ramifications of the tragic nature of their relationship very gripping and moving. Everyone should allow themselves to learn from it, love it, and feel how the endorphins of a great cinematic experience like this give you such a high. And there’ll be a tear constantly lingering in the corner of your eye.
Heartache? Yes, but I’m also healed at the same time.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.