REVIEW: Her

joaquin-phoenix-theodore-her-film1Artificial love captures true romance (★★★★★, Written and directed by Spike Jonze)
For many of us, our digital lives are now as complex as our ‘‘real’’ ones.
We have friends all over the world, meet life partners on dating apps and do business with people in the remotest of places.

But we’re still trying to figure out how we feel about social networking, about letting people we’ve never met in person into our lives and hearts.

Writer-director Spike Jonze has a crack at the issue with satirical sci-fi, Her.

Set in a crystalline future Los Angeles, Her introduces us to Theo Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a soulful, broken man whose job is writing heartfelt letters to other people’s loved ones, expressing feelings and sentiments he has no connection to himself.

Theo is lonely and more than a little lost after the collapse of his marriage, so the idea of an artificially intelligent operating system to keep him company appeals.
Cranking up his new OS, he’s delighted to find it has the sparkling personality of a vibrant young woman named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).

Smart, compassionate and alive to the possibilities of consciousness, Samantha is everything Theo’s been searching for in a companion.

The pair begin a courtship, inspiring and supporting each other to explore the limits, or lack thereof, of their emotions.

With a glittering Shanghai standing in for the spires of next century’s LA, and nods to Blade Runner, retro menswear catalogues and Instagram filters littered throughout, Her is one gorgeous film.

That chilly beauty, a blank space on which to project our own heated romantic obsessions, is far from sterile though.

Jonze’s wistful quirk and hipster earnestness busts the seedy idea at the core of Her – man falling in love with machine – wide open like an overripe dandelion head, spilling frothy goodness everywhere.

Thanks to Johansson’s warmth and charm, there’s nothing truly artificial about Samantha.

As she grows with Theo’s input from quirky-but-cute digital PA to challenging confidante and lover, the affection and attraction between the pair is tangible, if not ideal.

As a satire on the modern, digitally obsessed, condition, Her offers a lot of provocative and painfully honest ideas about how we connect, or fail to.

But  Jonze seems to draw the line at actively criticizing the navel gazing of an imaginary life – this is the guy who made Being John Malkovich, after all.

Instead he’s playful with it – a ‘‘sex’’ scene shows a blank screen over which Theo and Samantha’s voices crescendo; a ‘‘date’’ is Theo stumbling alone around a boardwalk as Samantha’s voice guides him; background action shows ever more people engaged with their phones rather than real life.

Ultimately, as Theo and Samantha’s relationship reaches its zenith, Her acknowledges the spiritually profound possibilities of connecting, mind to like-mind.

And in that moment, modern romance has rarely been so deftly or beautifully captured.


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