Video: Annapurna Pictures
Who’s the first person you turn to in the morning? Your iPhone or someone with an actual pulse?
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a sensitive and impulsive writer. The opening shot shows us the face of a man with a broken heart; his marriage to Catherine has faded after her perfectionism and his artistic spirit go their separate ways. There’s a disastrous blind date who demands to know if he’ll call before telling him he’s a ‘creepy dude’ and there’s his best friend Amy – the geeky, cool comfort that he couldn’t live without. These are the hers of the background – the hers who lead him to the her.
Samantha, the operating system on his computer, played by the velvet voiced Scarlett Johansson is without a physical presence. Who needs bodily reality? This is the 2020’s way. Set in futuristic L.A, artificial intelligence has reached a point where humans can no longer tell the difference between a conversation with a computer and another person. I know, I feel the same – the line’s getting thinner!
Director Spike Jonze delivers his offbeat, visual storytelling with a peachy tint that saturates the screen evoking a timelessness which resonates with our real, human feelings. She has them too, her. Moment by moment she learns new emotions and we watch them learn together and tumble with their own instincts.
‘Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m ever going to feel and now I’m just going to feel them again, but a lesser version.’ She shows him that he is wrong – ‘I’ve seen you feel joy, marvel at things.’ Her spontaneity and compassion confuse us as much as they confuse Theodore. She writes a song to ‘capture their life together, like a photograph’ and learns quantum physics telling him that they are both ‘matter.’
So, it’s not just a cautionary digital tale? He may not get the girl (he can’t) but he reconnects with excitement and we connect with sensuous love in digital times.
Johansson exquisitely indulges in the sweet and sultry of her own voice, choosing her own name ‘because she likes the sound of it’ whilst Phoenix surfs emotional registers showing us the chemistry between them. Spike Jonze’s Her takes us to the heart of romance as we invest so much in its soulful characters. Is this his answer to A Brief Encounter? Times may have changed but our need for love lives on. After all, we’re only human.