Her opens with Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) dictating a love letter to a computer that types it up in a specific calligraphy. The love letter is between two people Theodore has never met, whose love letters he has been writing over many years. The camera pans out revealing a beautiful office where in subdued tones, many others are doing the exact same thing as Theodore. The conceit in Her may appear at first glance obvious – technology is systematically distancing us from each other and from our innermost selves. Set in a pink-hued future seemingly designed by Ikea, Apple and Uniqlo, the film follows Theodore as he recovers from a disastrous break-up by falling in love with his new Operating System called Samantha, played by a husky-voiced Scarlett Johanssen.
There is an infinite amount of style and substance to Spike Jonze’s newest opus, which removes the movie entirely from the peril of any platitudes or sentimentality. The soft-focused sunny wash across the film is pointed against stunning feats of human ingeniousness in the form of breathtaking futuristic architecture from different cities. Add to this a colour palate of pink, yellow and red and a fibrously delicate look at the nature of loneliness and intimacy in the modern age, and you find yourself in a sort of synesthetic journey in Her – emotions, colour, and language become interchangeable. The beauty and scope of the piece is vast. But it’s also a really funny movie that can ridicule itself and the future, too. This it does for instance in a scene involving a late-night ‘lonely hearts’ call service, where a woman Theodore ends up speaking to asks him to perform acrobatics involving a dead cat. It may be a shiny new future, but we are only human after all.
As Theodore’s relationship with Samantha develops and deepens, one forgets the peculiar and dangerous underlying truth about it. As this new normality settles, we’re brought out of it by words spoken by the OS, by the system dubbed ‘a consciousness’, by Samantha, who has sensed a shift: “it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed.” In Her Jonze tries what his contemporaries perhaps don’t have the courage to – an earnest attempt at depicting that endless space between the words that eludes understanding, where we are heading as a society and as individuals, the wild blue yonder and all it implies. It is a film that is about the Big Questions for want of better words – humorous and obsessionally compassionate. If it wasn’t clear already, this movie has shot straight up onto our Favourite Movies of All Time list.
Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna