So the only thing I knew about this film going in was it was a love story between Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlet Johansen’s voice.
She plays the titular Her, an artificially intelligent operating system (think sexy Windows).
I knew it was well received amongst my fellow nerds but I wasn’t expecting to be quite so entranced by it.
Let me begin by saying that this is what science fiction is about: exploring the human condition through futuristic ideas.
It is set is an ‘imminent future’ where technology is a little better than now and the concept of convenience reigns (as exampled by Joaquin’s character working for a ‘personal letter writing company’, i.e. people pay others to write love letters, condolence letters etc on behalf of other people, whom either don’t have the words or time).
Here, we take the concept of love without lust and what that actually means. The twist here is that the love is between a flesh and blood human and a piece of sophisticated software. So real, instinctual, animalistic hanky-panky is completely off the table.
It approaches the concept delicately and treats it with respect, never getting bogged down in the question of what is sentience (although it tackles a number of related questions, the characters themselves decide not to go down that particular rabbit hole).
It stays focused on the idea of human and non-corporeal intelligence relationships. And of that, I totally bought into: it does feel like Joaquin’s character genuinely fell for the artificial intelligence and it didn’t ever feel forced by the story. We experience his entire spectrum of feelings, including doubt about whether it is right or even real, which is really rather the point.
The film is beautifully shot, with a fantastic soundtrack provided by Arcade Fire, at times being reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation. I’m not sure if she was involved but given the director is married to her, so I can’t help but feel her influence.
Speaking of the director, Spike Jonze has a real talent for bringing bizarre concepts to the screen. His earlier film, Being John Malkovich could not be any more bizarre but he successfully made a very watchable, very good, movie.
Here he employs similar techniques (such as having his female lead be made under, or not having a physical body in the case of ScarJo) to give an element of reality to an otherwise fantastical notion.
For me, the point of this film is to explore whether love can truly exist between two people without a physical relationship. I mean, there can never be a real physical relationship between the two lovers (and the one attempt to do so, while treated respectfully, exists only to demonstrate that his love for her is not just chemical or instinctual or based on physical attraction). There are a couple of ‘cyber sex’ scenes (one of which is hilariously super awkward), so watching it with your mum might be weird…
Still, I believed in their relationship. And all that came with it. The cast and production unit convinced me that this could happen (and the inevitable consequences of the same, which Futurama had toyed with as a joke).
I was a little let down by the end but having reflected on it, I don’t know how else it could have concluded. It is a very ‘Ray Bradbury’ kind of ending, if that makes sense.
I do urge you to watch it. This is the kind of non-mainstream movie I like to watch (see also: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the aforementioned Lost In Translation, Punch Drunk Love) and is a very good example of what can be achieved, if you have a good enough vision and crew to produce it.
TL:DR “Man falls in love with his computer. And it is totally believable, beautiful and sad.”