Spike Jonze’s achingly contemporary drama Her is a both a cautionary tale of the reliance on technology and a study of human fragility.
Theodore Twombly is a professional letter writer who spends most of his free time online. In the final stages of his divorce, lonely Theodore decides to purchase what has been advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system. This leads to a surprising connection…
Her is an interesting combination of science fiction and romantic drama. The events that unfold are almost horrifying at times, yet the film also demands empathy from its viewers. The protagonist at the centre is very human, even if some of his interactions are not.
The setting of Her is both familiar and removed. The film is set not so far in the future that it is unrecognisable, yet there is an artificiality that matches the theme. Bathed in artificial lighting, the visuals frequently assume the unreal quality of the relationship. There is a noticeable difference in the lighting from the flashbacks and scenes with other women to the ones that concentrate on Samantha.
Despite an aesthetic of disengagement, it is not too difficult to empathise with Theodore. It is understandable why he would engage in a relationship with his artificially intelligent operating system, given what is illustrated about his lifestyle, history and what he gains from the arrangement. The fact that Theodore is talented, flawed and craving personal attention makes him a more realistic character.
Her speaks about the ubiquitousness of loneliness, albeit at a localised level. The links between the use of technology today and the possible outcomes are clearly signposted. What is most macabre is not just the dependency of technology, but the fallacy of it. With its allusions to contemporary uses of the internet, Her accentuates the how absurd our relationship with technology is by offering something that seems extreme, but is not so far removed. As a salve to isolation and loneliness, technology here is depicted as both attractive and unreliable. Solutions or alternatives are suggested but perspicaciously come with their own drawbacks.
Joaquin Phoenix portrays Theodore in a most sincere manner. There is an element of melancholy to his performance. He is ably supported by Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson.
Writer-director Spike Jonze has created a film that reveals human experience through the guise of technological advancement. Her is a rich, interesting, and thought-provoking film.