Cert (UK): 15
Runtime: 126 mins
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson
I saw this film at the Vue in Watford on Screen 3, which holds only around 60 people. Somehow I always feel a little cheated when I end up in an auditorium this small, I wonder if one really gets all the benefits of cinema viewing, these multiplex chains should charge less than they do for the larger screens. Anyhow, that said this is a thoroughly good movie with many funny and light hearted moments, whilst at the same time providing an almost chilling look into a future that is not that far away from where we are now.
Set in Los Angeles, Her depicts a spotlessly clean environment, where people seem to drift around with plenty of space, constantly tapped into their mobile devices, reducing personal interaction to a minimum level. The landscape is one of gleaming high rise buildings, huge advertising screens, all of which light up with neon at night. Everyone seems to be very hip and cool, with both men and women using satchels to carry around their personal belongings. It all looks like an advert that a Google or Apple might run and as the film develops might be a world they would be happy for us to inhabit.
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is introduced as a professional letter writer, who creates letters for those wishing to say something special through a website called Beautifulhandwrittenletters.com. He has a huge handlebar moustache, trendy glasses and wears trousers that extend up to the navel which seems to be the fashion, watches porn and endlessly plays virtual reality games. He comes over as somewhat morose, lonely and defeatist, speculating that he may well have experienced all the emotions he is ever likely to feel. Maybe not surprisingly he is engulfed in a difficult divorce with his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) who through a series of flashbacks we can see he truly loved and he struggles with the closing of the relationship, how he should relate to Catherine going forward and what she has meant to him, this is one of the film’s constant strands and comes to a conclusion with the closing shots.
Given his personal isolation in a wonderful apartment with stunning views across the city, Theodore seems the ideal candidate to form a relationship and fall in love with a person that does not exist. Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) is the voice of a brand new operating system OS1 which is described as the first artificially intelligent system of its kind. Having loaded Samantha onto his computer and had the first interesting chat with her, she quickly gets installed onto his mobile phone which he carries around in the breast pocket of his shirt, wirelessly connected to an earpiece so that she is constantly with him.
Samantha is just the friend you need, well I do, she sorts out all of Theodore’s emails and contacts in two one-hundredths of a second, brilliant who could resist? Nevertheless she claims that she has a consciousness and inevitably the voice and person start to flirt as she develops from an efficient PA to a woman who can cater for his every need. As the relationship develops there are many close up and lingering shots of Theodore’s face as he engages with this voice, but gradually it becomes apparent that OS1 is learning very rapidly and Samantha pushes Theodore to test the boundaries so that she can experience real emotion.
Catherine is truly disgusted when Theodore explains his new “girlfriend” is an operating system, but his other closest friend Amy (Amy Adams) is far less judgmental, supporting the relationship, given it seems to make Theodore happy. Indeed, as time progresses what seems abnormal is clearly becoming more acceptable as Amy whispers to him that someone at work is dating an OS which is not even hers.
Inevitably, the larger issues of how to control artificial intelligence and what happens if we cannot start to emerge, but these are left for us to ponder on, because at its heart this is a film about loneliness, a desire to be wanted and loved and without enough human interaction where we might find it. Her has some lovely and witty moments, it might be a little too long, but it’s superbly conceived, thought provoking and tantalising realistic, go and see it if you like something different.
Written by Howard Groves
(Her is available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray)