Direction: Spike Jonze
Screenplay by: SpikeJonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams,
Music: Arcade Fire
Plot: Set in a futuristic 2025, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a shy and reserved man. He works for a corporation where he writes personal letters on behalf of his customers who are unable or don’t have the time to express their feelings and so hire the services of these companies. He is going through a midlife crisis having to face an impending divorce, and spend most of his time alone. He downloads an operating system on his personal computer one evening and transfers it to his mobile phone. The OS has the ability to emulate human behaviour, synthesise human voices and interact with other people. Theodore assigns it a female voice and thus the OS develops into Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).
They soon bond and develop a relationship much closer and meaningful than Theo has ever had, becoming extremely co-dependent of each other. Throughout his evolving relationship with Samantha, we see Theo painfully try to relate to his soon to be ex-wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara) and his relationship with one of his few friends, Amy (Amy Adams), an ex-girlfriend of sorts who is now married to another man.
Eventually Theodore starts to realise that his relationship with Samantha is not exactly unique, dismayed he finds out that so many people are just like him addicted to the OS on their phones and that Samantha too has bonded with thousands of other users simultaneously.
Critique: Her is on a personal level, the best film I have had the pleasure of watching this year. It is a deep and incisive dissection of a not so distant future. It is a sensitive, sweet and honest approach to our present day mores and behavioural patterns. It depicts a society where people have become so dependent on technology for the daily tasks that they are losing the ability to express their emotions face to face. We see people twitch nervously, unable to make eye contact most of the time when relating to each other and the few times they open up and communicate beyond banal clichés, they tend to indulge in talking more about themselves than actually listen to what the other person has to say and have a structured conversation. It also portrays the underemployment so present in today’s society where Theodore who is a professional writer has to write meaningless personal letters to complete strangers on behalf people he knows very little other than their user profiles. The films brilliance would not have been complete without the brilliant soundtrack with the collaboration of Arcade Fire, Owen Pallet or Karen O.
Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) – Theodore is a professional writer who lives alone, has a listless and solitary life. Being a professional writer he has to conform to a menial job of writing personal letters to complete strangers on behalf of people he barely knows through their user profiles in his company. He is waiting and at the same time avoiding to face an impending divorce with his wife Catherine. One night he downloads a new Operating System on his personal computer which is shared on his mobile phone and ends up connecting with “it” more than with real people. Played brilliantly by the gifted Joaquin Phoenix, Theodore shows his extremely sensitive and sweet side, with shadows of cowardice, social procrastinator and possessive. The scene where he is briefly unable to connect with Samantha surely deserves to be amongst one cinema´s recent most touching and convincing scenes.
Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) – Samantha is a virtual and yet powerful presence in the film. It is a new Operating System created by a software company which can be downloaded at any computer, phone or any other device. It is completely adaptable to suit the consumers’ requests and in Theodore´s case, the OS adapts a female voice and persona at his request and thus becomes Samantha. Samantha is programmed to emulate human behaviour through observation, absorption and imitation. Thus Samantha starts to grasp Theodore´s qualities such as been curious, sensitive and sweet. She also begins to value intelligence as a key quality that sets apart individuals from each other. However she also begins to absorb his frailties and starts to become insecure aching to be accepted as a sentient being. She also begins to imitate human emotions and reproduce them such as jealousy, love, lust and sorrow.
Amy (Amy Adams) Amy is one Theodore´s closest friends. They have known each other since college and even shared a brief romance in the past. Yet most of their communications do not go beyond superficial clichés. Like him, she is extremely insecure and longs for a more loving and warm environment. She has difficulty expressing her true emotions and too scared to experience life´s moments. Despite being married, she is unhappy, her relationship does not fill the void she has for human contact and also ends up downloading an OS with whom she bonds more than with her own husband.
Cathrine (Rooney Mara) – Catherine is Theodore´s wife who is divorcing him. At one point in various flashbacks we see a happy couple in bliss and making plans for the future. However Theodore´s melancholic nature soon starts to take over their relationship and thwarts her feelings for him bringing to them to a dead end road. Through Catherine we see one of Theodore´s weaknesses: his cowardice not to be brave enough to face his relationship has ended and have the courage to move on as well as his habit of procrastinating important decisions such as avoiding to meet her to sign the divorce papers.