Film: Her
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix
Directed By: Spike Jonze

I’ve lost count of how many nights I have stayed awake thinking of the future and the possibilities it might present. Will we have flying cars? Will we defeat the generally accepted idea of death by somehow reaching the singularity? Will we still relate to one another the way we do today? That last question is one of many addressed and dwelled upon in Her, the latest film from Spike Jonze, and as you can probably imagine the search for that answer is riddled with heartache. The journey, however, is without a doubt on of the best cinematic experiences in recent memory.

Technology has reached a point where it is changing the way we interact with one another at a rate far faster than anyone could have ever imagined. Her jumps ahead just far enough for mankind to have developed operating systems with unique personalities that are not only portable, but entirely self-aware. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a middle-aged man who spends his days writing other people’s love letters, takes an interest in the technology while trying to come to terms with his divorce, and much to the surprise of anyone who missed the trailer he soon finds himself feeling a great emotional attachment to the software, which chooses to name itself Samantha.

Is it love? Is love even possible between man and machine? Is Samantha somehow more than a machine? Her addresses some of these questions head-on, while others are left for the viewer to chew over while the two-hour runtime plays out. Theodore grows closer to Samantha because she takes an interest in him, and even though he knows deep down she does this because her many algorithms tell her to Theodore cannot help appreciating that someone wants to know how he views the world. Even better, when he is ready to open up and discover someone new Samantha is already at his side. There are no obstacles to interaction, no hurdles of social awkwardness to overcome. Samantha is there for him whenever he needs her to be, and from her inflection it seems it’s exactly where she feels she belongs.

As their relationship develops Theodore eventually finds it within himself to share his admiration for Samantha with the world. He’s not the first to fall for his OS, but his friends cannot help being intrigued by the ultra-modern connection. Theodore shares Samantha with his world, and in turn Samantha becomes as much as part of his every day life as any person with a physical form could hope to be. Except for the sex, of course, but as the saying goes – ‘where there is a will there is way.’

It’s hard to know what to expect when Theodore first installs Samantha onto his devices, and one the film’s most charming aspects is that it keeps that keeps the viewer on their toes throughout. The world has never seen a relationship quite like this before, so the possibilities are essentially endless. Theodore and Samantha feel for one another in a way that has to be sold entirely through Joaquin’s expressions and the voices of two leads (one never seen), but somehow they pull it off. In fact, I dare say they share is one of the most believable romances to be put on the big screen in some time. You want it to be real just as much as Theodore, and that’s before he learns that Samantha may or may not feel the same.

I’ve asked a lot of questions in this review, but they are just a few of the ones that will cross your mind while experiencing Her. I say experience because I am not sure how anyone could write-off the impression it leaves upon the viewer as being something they simply watched. Her kicks in the door to a new world of ideas and discussions that have long been waiting for the chance to be dissected on the silver screen. It begs you to become engaged in the material, proposing complex futuristic situations most have never previously been exposed to, and it does so through a film that is at its core a tale of a broken heart – the most relatable human emotion.

Her is nothing short of a triumph. I cannot say with absolute certainty that everyone who sees it will walk away amazed, but it is most definitely a unique cinematic experience that deeply (and creatively) satisfies on every level.

Score: A

Written by: James Shotwell (Twitter)

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