Reflecting on my choice to see “Her,” I almost wish I hadn’t. Not because of the phenomenal writing and acting, the achingly beautiful backgrounds or Joaquin Phoenix’s ability to be utterly perfect. No, it’s because I didn’t have anyone to hug afterwards.
For slightly under two hours, “Her” (directed by Spike Jonze) takes you on a heartbreaking adventure through love between a man and his operating system (OS). By the end of the movie, other than a potent feeling of longing, what you feel is the purest sense of love, both for the movie itself and everything around you.
The film, set in the the near future, follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who’s just separated from his wife and feeling lonely. Early on in the plot, Theodore decides to buy a new OS (voiced by Scarlet Johansson), one that adapts and learns the longer it’s turned on. The OS names itself Samantha, and throughout the course of the film Samantha and Theodore fall in love. “Her” also includes a small subplot about Theodore’s friend Amy (Amy Adams) and her crumbling marriage to her husband. By the end of the film, Theodore, Samantha and Amy all find closure in their own ways.
What makes “Her” so wonderful, and what I believe to be one of 2013’s best movies, is that it hits every mark. The writing is superb, with some of the most poignant and sweet moments occurring between Theodore and Amy. Every main actor (Phoenix, Johansson, Adams, Rooney Mara and Chris Pratt among others) was so raw and convincing that I wanted to reach out and comfort them. Phoenix in particular played an astoundingly authentic character, one with flaws and idiosyncrasies like any real person.
Filmed in Los Angeles and Japan, the scenery and architecture were breathtaking in their simplicity, and elicited a strong feeling of warmth that went with the film very well. Although not as prominent as it could have been, the music, composed by Arcade Fire (one of my personal favorites), complemented every scene perfectly. The film is definitely not lacking in any department, and perhaps it’s just my personal taste, but the film may have benefitted from making the music a more core part of the film.
From the few trailers I’d seen beforehand, I’d expected “Her” to be a cautionary tale about the chaos that would occur if technology became too advanced. However, the relationships between humans and computers was not as prominent a theme; what makes “Her” so unique is that it uses a technologically advanced society as a backdrop for what is truly a film about relationships. Friendships, romances and even relationships with coworkers. “Her” makes every relationship seem so real it’s as if the movie theater has disappeared from around you.
It may be too soon to call the film a modern masterpiece. Yet, ever since I saw the film, I can’t get it out of my head. Its raw look at relationships and love is what makes so completely unforgettable.
And as Theodore fell in love with an OS, I’ve fallen in love with a film. But I couldn’t care less; as is perhaps best said by Amy Adams’ character, “Falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It’s like a socially acceptable form of insanity.”