UK Release Date: 14th February 2014
Runtime: 126 minutes
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara
Synopsis: A man who writes for an online letter company has his life changed when he falls deeply in love with his brand new personalised operating system and struggles with the realities of a human-technology relationship.
The last of the Best Picture nominees for the 2014 Oscars to get a UK release, Spike Jonze’s techno-romance Her snuck into a fairly limited number of screens in time for Valentine’s Day. At a time when films are either light-hearted or full of ideas, but never both, Her is a refreshing combination of the two that turns out to be deftly brilliant.
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) writes sickly romantic love notes for BeautifulHandWrittenLetters.com as he tries to get over his split from wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). He eventually comes across a new, personalised operating system and finds himself falling for his individual system, named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).
Her is a beautiful example of how to produce a film that casually sidesteps all of the problems that could’ve derailed it. Central to the film is the fact that the central character, perfectly played by Joaquin Phoenix, isn’t merely the identikit nerdy loner. He is nuanced, has real depth, and has a reasonable social circle around him.
| "I think anybody who falls in love is a freak. It’s a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity."
The fact that Theodore feels like a real person rather than a comedy caricature is only the start of Her’s genius. The realism of the characters highlights just how close the sci-fi universe of the film is to the one in which we live. It holds up a mirror to modern society and distorts the reflection slightly, but dramatically.
Spike Jonze uses Her to insightfully ponder the changing relationship that humans have with technology, taking it to its natural conclusion. Very few people react with surprise or disgust when told Theodore is dating his OS and, by the end of the film, virtually every character wanders around chatting to their earpieces.
Again, this is an example of Jonze avoiding obvious pitfalls, showing the dark and light of a future in which man-machine romance is commonplace. A bespoke girlfriend that meets every need may seem like a good idea, but there’s also an edge to it all that the film is equally able to explore.
| "It’s like I’m reading a book, and it’s a book I deeply love… but I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite."
Whether it’s basking in hazy joy or wallowing in harrowing darkness, Her is a film that manages to feel otherworldly and completely familiar at the same time. Roll on Oscar night.
Pop or Poop?
The fact that Her manages to marry its offbeat tone with huge mainstream appeal says everything you need to know about how great a piece of work it is.
Joaquin Phoenix gives a complex central performance, supported by an ethereal, but brittle, Rooney Mara and quality voice work from Scarlett Johansson.
But the most impressive thing about Her is how perfectly judged it is on the part of auteur Spike Jonze. He has crafted an excellent techno-romance that really double clicks the heart.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.