Her takes place in a not-so-distant-future Los Angeles and follows Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a sensitive young man who is recovering from a broken marriage. His routine is thrown off when a new brand of Operating System is released which provides genuine companionship and appears to feel emotions. Theodore’s relationship with his OS (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) quickly blossoms and the pair begin to face the trials and tribulations of any other love affair.
Director Spike Jonze has created something quite beautiful in this film. All the pieces seem to fit together so perfectly and the result is a joy to behold. Firstly, the setting looks and feels absolutely fantastic. Theodore is a lost soul amongst these towering skyscrapers and crowds of wired-in people, yet he obviously finds some solace in these futuristic inventions: an advanced form of chat-room, a seemingly pointless videogame and voice-controlled everything. So the introduction of Scarlett Johansson’s OS creates a fascinating dialogue between flesh-and-blood human and pioneering technology. The relationship which develops between Theodore and the OS, nicknamed Samantha, is done so well you frequently forget that he is talking to a machine.
Scarlett Johansson is the most remarkable; we never see her face, but her voice in Theodore’s ear often communicates everything we need to know. She presents happiness, lust, fear and sadness equally effortlessly.
Obviously, much of this can be put down to the performances. Phoenix has turned in another brilliant one as his character grows deeply attached to Samantha, glowing of new-found love and also showcasing both comedic and tragic potential. The former is the biggest surprise; Jonze’s film is full of genuinely funny moments which never feel forced. Amy Adams features in a minor but important role which she, as with The Master, has built into something special when it could have easily been a throwaway part. Yet Scarlett Johansson is the most remarkable; we never see her face, but her voice in Theodore’s ear often communicates everything we need to know. She presents happiness, lust, fear and sadness equally effortlessly.
Uniquely, this love story is so touching because of both technical and non-technical elements. Jonze’s use of specific colour schemes, how the camera follows Theodore and wonderful musical touches will put a smile on one’s face. But in combination with the heartfelt line delivery, a very natural script and occasional emphasis on what isn’t being said elevates it beyond humdrum romance. The problems faced in the relationship feel scarily real, we beg Phoenix to reveal his character’s true feelings and when the going is good we are soaring along with them. This comes back to the apt choice of setting which isn’t just there to facilitate Johansson’s character, but demonstrates that advancements cannot always suture problems rooted in human emotion.
A touching, funny and pertinent film, Her is a triumph which arguably marks a career best for Spike Jonze and features customarily excellent performances from its leads.