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Her – Review


Release Date: 10th January 2014 [USA]
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix - Amy Adams - Scarlett Johansson - Rooney Mara



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Posted March 19, 2014 by

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Her Review:

Out of sight, out of mind. How about those that were never in sight to begin with? Despite being the story of a man in a not so distant future that falls in love with his OS, Spike Jonze’s latest is less about technology, and more about human relationships. Despite the lack of physical contact, a connection is created between two minds who enrich each other and become co-dependent. While it’s all done through a nifty little headphone and a sleek smart-phone-like device, this is a relationship with ups and downs, like any other. It has a beginning, as well as an inevitable end, it has fears and doubts, it has pure joy and gut-wrenching sorrow. What it also has is a total lack of possibility for an actual physical encounter or presence, but that is not what takes this couple apart. And that’s the beauty of it.

Her” is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve and it’s the result of a team work, where everybody contributed to the image of a near future down to the smallest detail. The film successfully creates a world- through set design, costumes, but also in terms of atmosphere, and generally things not feeling out of place. It is all done in such a way that it does not give the impression of utter impossibility. And it is done with subtlety and at a certain pace- rather than taking time to explain how people interact with technology, Spike Jonze dives right in and builds up everything in the process. Granted, he has the luxury of making this film in an era when our smart phones have become a constant presence and are often a companion, as well as communication tool that goes beyond simply making calls to people in our circle.

At the same time, though, “Her” by-passes the ‘technology is going to take over our lives’ dystopia. It suggests that technology is not necessarily going to drive us away from human contact, but that it is going to make us more selective about it. Everybody is engaging with their OS (albeit not all do so romantically) because this interaction is customized to their needs. We see gradually through the film more and more people engaged in conversations with their headphones plugged in. Yet they are not glued to a screen and they are not distracted to the point of bumping into each other, they do not live their lives locked inside and isolated. They go on dates, and to birthday parties, they spend the day at the beach, they have a picnic. They are still unapologetically human.

Going back to how it all contributes to easing the viewer into this universe and its atmosphere, it is also due, in great part, to well dosed writing and an equally well dosed performance by Joaqin Pheonix. As for the sensual voice of the OS, Scarlet Johanson proves to be a very good casting choice. Perhaps it is a bit too good of a choice, considering that one of the main points of the film revolves around the lack of physical presence. Whereas, other viewers probably experienced my difficulty to dissociate the voice from the body we know it belongs to.

As somebody no longer living in my home country, “Her” stirred up a lot of thought on how I actually interact with many of my friends and my family. There is always a device that intermediates the communication, and it’s become a normal thing that we take several weeks to schedule a Skype meeting. Yet we maintain a relationship, we keep each other updated, we still care about each other despite several thousands of kilometers between us. It’s true though, that they can always send me photos and/or videos. I also met them as a physical presence first of all, so I have an image, a tri-dimensional one, a body to go with the voice, the personality, the communication. I also know that at some point I’m going to meet them again. That is something that does not and cannot exist for Theodore and Samantha. But ultimately, it is not the lack of physical contact that gets between them.

Although set in the future, “Her” offers a good explanation of why, in the present, we are so likely to become bound to our devices, while, at the same time, defending and legitimizing the connections we have online. They are still people those we are interacting with today (not only the ones we know, but just some we get to know through playing games, on a dating website, in a chat room etc.). We might never meet any of them face to face, but that is also part of why one can get so close to somebody like that. There is also this idea of letting go of inhibitions or other sort of restraints knowing that if something goes wrong, you can just cut the communication with that person- you ignore them or you block them altogether. There is a lot of writing and debate dedicated to internet bullying, but not as much to the other side of the coin. It is true, though, that this is not one that is so out in the open, not so easily apparent, and, often, not one that people are speaking about. There is still a prejudice tied to the idea of opening up to complete strangers. We’re still talking actual people here, so it’s no wonder that in “Her” there’s frowning upon the idea of somebody having a relationship with their OS.

But what it’s ultimately about is not the presence or absence of a body. As in any relationship, people grow with and through each other. It’s nobody’s fault, but it gets to the point when one outgrows the other, and they need to be off to the next thing. Not necessarily because the current situation does not suit them anymore, but because now they understand that they want if not something else, than something more. Theodore’s relationship with Samantha pretty much passes through the same stages as the one he had with his ex-wife. They grew up together, they support each other. Then seemingly over night, one of the two is a step further and they want to keep on going further, while all the other one wants is to stay still. It does not matter whether it is a person or the sensual voice of artificial intelligence- you just can’t keep somebody tied to you.


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Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 19.35.28

Mirona Nicola
Freelance Contributor


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