If you’ve ever fallen deeply in love with Diana Dos, Linux Linda, Wilfred Windows or Ophelia Sarah OSX then Spike Jonze’s Her will offer you the essential intelligent, indie rom-com drama that you have been waiting for. For everyone else it is still an essential indie rom-com drama anyway. We will load the review and execute it (in a ‘good code’ way and not a ‘bad violent’ way).
Love and life have been harsh for Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) recently. His wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) is seeking a divorce and even though his neighbour and long-term friend Amy (Amy Adams) cares enough to get him a blind date (Olivia Wilde) something is missing from his life. His employment is going swimmingly, his job writing letters for other people receives praise from his clients, who appreciate his candid nom-de-pen (or rather nom-de-keyboard) epistles to their partners, friends and relatives, as personal and individual. Things change for the better, at least to Theodore, when he embraces the necessity of the modern age and gets himself a new computer, which comes with a modern and very different OS (operating system – the thing that makes it run, non-computer readers). This OS is very sophisticated, with a polite, inquiring interface, that knows its owner, reads their files, responds to demands and makes requests when deemed appropriate. Theodore names his OS Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). She is so helpful and amenable, she quickly becomes part of his life and a friendship between them soon develops. Eventually Theodore finds himself falling in love with Samantha and, curiously, she admits that she too has feelings for him. Can the relationship survive or will it crash (sorry!)? Only time will tell.
At times charming, dramatic, absurd and emotional, Her is quite simply one of the best science fiction rom-coms you are likely to see. The term ‘science fiction’ in this instance doesn’t refer to giant transformers or mad robots taking over the earth or similar manifestations you are likely to encounter in popular Hollywood offerings but rather the more specific genesis of SF as imagining a future based upon the present but showing a perspective that perhaps you haven’t considered. In Hollywood terms the ‘prime concept’ of a protagonist falling in love with his OS is as prime as the modern age can get; we live in a multimedia age and increasingly interact with technology. In many ways Theodore’s job relates to this as well; he constructs letters for other people – ‘To Chris, how lucky I was to meet you 50 years ago’ – mimicking handwriting through use of different fonts, which links the past, present and future visually, technologically and imaginatively. But some things, like personal emotional relationships, are timeless.
Her sees a return to the cinema for Spike Jonze (whose last film was Where the Wild Things Are ), who has provided a more personal film which matches his other, non-animated, features. Being John Malkovich (1999) showed us a surreal and absurd world, whilst Adaptation (2002) combined the real and the surreal with aplomb. Indeed the latter films, scripted by Charlie Kaufman, also link to SF as they recall the offbeat tone of Philip K. Dick at his most humorous. This is a film where the normal world is all too normal, and humans juggle emotions in a techno-stringent environment. ‘Sometimes I feel I’ve felt everything I’m going to feel,’ states Theodore and you can’t help but empathise and sympathise with him.
Welcome to the future, a future that embraces technology at an emotional level. Charming, funny and delightfully eccentric, Her is another winner from Jonze.