Cinema Review – Her

In the not too distant future, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) writes letters on behalf of other people. Heartbroken after a disastrous relationship, Theordore becomes intrigued by a new operating system that promises artificial intelligence, specific to the user. On installing the operating system, Theodore is curious to meet Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the voice of the system that is designed to make his life easier, and it is not long before the lines between user and operating system become blurred. Spike Jonze has made a career out of telling stories that are just a little bit weird, but close enough to our own reality for them to make sense. It is hard to imagine anyone other than Jonze telling this story, and it is hard to imagine anyone other than Phoenix starring in it. Phoenix makes Theodore a perfectly average man who, since he had his heart broken, has retreated into himself and his own little world. There is certainly a good person underneath Theodore’s despair, but hid friends seem unable to bring this out, that is, until he meets Samantha. If Scarlett Johansson had not succeeded in making Samantha, the operating system, a character in her own right, then the film would certainly have failed. Thankfully though, Johansson manages to play Samantha through her voice alone, no mean feat, since there is no animation or imagery to help her performance. Johansson makes the character playful and curious, honest and a little possessive; the ideal girlfriend maybe, but how long can it last with the two characters being on such different physical planes. Jonze seems to have been inspired by Apple’s technological advances in recent years, the sci-fi writings of Philip K. Dick and the reality of relationships. There are obvious parallels to be drawn between the fact that many relationships now are carried out through virtual means, rather than actual human interaction; this seems to have been the starting point for the film – as well as the observation that if an OS with AI is tailored to one specific person, how could they not fall in love with it? From here, Jonze examines the nature of being in a relationship with someone you rarely see, as well as the nature of relationships themselves, before brushing over the issue of artificial communication, as opposed to organic conversation. As well as this, Her makes the future, and the concept of the future, a friendly and welcoming one. The world of Her is not a dystopian future with governments drunk on power; it is a world not so different from our own. It is so unusual to see a future world represented in such a way on screen that this is not only comforting, but also refreshing and engaging. At the heart of it, Her is a warm and simple love story of two entities brought together, only to discover their differences may keep them apart. Jonze examines the nature of relationships, as well as our recent dependence on technology in a warm and simple manner. The morals are there, but we are never bashed over the head with them. Phoenix and Johansson are wonderful, without them, there would be no Her. Rating: 5/5

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