BY LE LE MAC
Spike Jonze’s science fiction romance, Her is endearing, thought provoking, mesmerizing, quirky and definitely worth watching. This film makes you question what is “real” love and generally what it is to be human in a postmodern world.
Her is set in the unspecified near future in L.A. where technology provides infinite possibilities. Jonze creates a colourful world that plays homage to the sleek 1970s retro style, complete with faux wood finishes and high-waisted tweed pants. More importantly, Jonze creates a world where technology and humanity intertwine and become almost indistinguishable as separate entities. The love story of this film challenges this boundary that technology is just used to assist people in their day to day. Rather, Her is a love story where technology exists to help humans feel what is inherently human: emotions.
This love tale centers around Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who is a love letter writer for BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com. The irony is that he is a lonely man going through divorce, working as an intermediary between lovers by writing love letters for them as if he were those individuals. He lives his life by playing pointless video games and tries to find comfort and intimacy in random phone sex conversations. His life changes when he purchases an OS (Operating System) with artificial intelligence for his computer and phone, appropriately voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Theodore initially used the OS, which named itself Samantha, as a sort of personal assistant to do basic tasks such as read his email. However, their connection gets more complex than that when Samantha explains that she evolves every second, just like a human does, and that she has feelings and a consciousness she needs to figure out, also like a human. She talks about being programmed–Aren’t humans just programmed biologically and genetically as well?
Theodore inevitably falls in love with Samantha as she has the sophistication to understand his needs and also believes in him and pushes him to succeed by sending his love letters to a book publisher. Samantha appears to fall in love with Theodore and their relationship grows. Theodore and Samantha have meaningful conversations, go on dates and have sex, even with their obvious limitations. Jonze succeeds in making this relationship believable, endearing and I often found myself rooting for this couple to work out.
This film challenges what we think real love is. Is Theodore’s love with Samantha not real because she is a machine, and are his love letters he writes for other lovers not authentic even if he started writing for these couples since the beginning of their courtships? The intense emotions he feels with her–bliss, affection, jealousy and heartbreak–make the love real for him.
The other two women in his life, his ex-wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara) and his close friend, Amy (Amy Adams) are examples of failed human relationships. Theodore and Catherine didn’t work out because he wanted to change her into his idealized image of her. Theodore and Amy tried dating in the past but never worked out and her current marriage fizzled. This film makes us think that no matter how sophisticated we are, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to loving and letting ourselves be loved.
What I think makes this film great is that Jonze expresses a subtle dystopia that just makes us reflect on how we relate to technology and to other people without terrifying us.
Le Le Mac’s passion in film started when she would watch several Chinese films a week so that she could learn how to be more fluent in her mother tongue. Her passion then led her to study film and the Asian diaspora in Canada in graduate school. She is currently writing film reviews as a hobby. She is a big fan of Radiohead and tea. She has 40 different types of tea in her collection, and will often host tea parties. She currently lives in Toronto with her husband.