Not only is Spike Jonze’s Her a film that’s relevant because it explores where our technology’s likely headed, it’s also a movie that’s about basic human needs: our want for love, our desire to be understood and our wish to not be alone. The film centers on Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who develops a relationship with intelligent computer operating system Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). While this premise may be off-putting to some (among the audience and among the characters in the film), Her is a very moving and universal love story at its core, realistic sci-fi is just the dressing.
Despite Her‘s story, it’s quite a normal film, especially by writer-director Jonze’s standards: Being John Malkovich and Adaptation were ingenious and absolutely ludacris at the same time, bending reality and building layers upon layers, while Where The Wild Things Are was a fantasy film adaptation of the popular children’s book. Her is basically just about a guy who’s been hurt, finds it hard to connect to people as a result, and then meets a girl who makes him believe in love again. It just so happens she is a voice in computer. What a voice though: Johansson delivers a stunning performance. She’s not in a single frame, only uses speech and tone to convey a range of emotions, which make the operating system Samantha not just likeable, but very human. Johansson makes you believe that someone could actually fall in love with a computer program and she’s a big part of why the movie works as well as it does.
That’s not to say the rest of the cast isn’t just as wonderful. Phoenix’s turn is quiet, endearing and tender, his Theodore a wonderful protagonist. He’s a warm but lonely man in need of love, and Phoenix plays it straight, understated and relatable, a stark contrast to his role in The Master, proving his versatility as an actor once again. The supporting cast also does a fine job: Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde and Brian Cox all turn in wonderful work, portraying characters that all seem like there’s more to them than meets the eye. Despite the sci-fi angle everything feels real, just like Samantha feels real to Theodore.
Jonze’s Her is philosophical, touching and easily one of 2013’s best films. It’s one of those movies that has no weak parts and is a joy to watch from beginning to end. 9/10