Her: a cinematic triumph that redefines the meaning of true love


Theodore Twobly (Joaquin Phoenix) expressing the bliss radiating from his life-changing artifically intelligent program, Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johannson.

Aaron Brezel, Editor-in-Chief

Her.  Who?  Her.  Who?  The title is more than fodder for a lame joke; it captures the coexisting uncertainty and familiarity that defines the movie, Her.

Her is the story of a young man, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), seemingly in his early 30s, who falls in love with his computer, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).

They talk late into the night, enjoy the city, and go on double dates just as any couple would. According to the previews, the concept itself seems borderline ridiculous. What those who make the trek to watch the movie in theaters will realize is that Her is not an elaborate gag poking fun at the technological generation.

Rather than dismissing the concept as the end of human contact as we know it, Her, written and directed by Spike Jonze, open-mindedly tackles concepts of love, consciousness, and connection.

The setting of Her is just as important as any of the characters.  Following up the compelling setting that he created for Where the Wild Things Are, Jonze places Twombly in a mega-city of the near future.  While Her supposedly takes place in Los Angeles, the city has been transformed into an unrecognizable sea of endless skyscrapers.

The architecture of the sets echoes a modern minimalist style with muted colors and sterile white surfaces, essentially it is as if the entire city were an Apple Store.  Jonze’s setting for the movie was carefully deliberated.  It was important to create a new setting that was foreign enough to allow the audience to view it with a degree of detachment, but familiar enough to see it as a possible cultural future.

The opening scenes serve as credence to all those who fear the advancement of technology.  In a clear display of a loss of emotional connection, it is revealed that Twombly’s job is to write heartfelt letters for clients who lack the passion to do so on their own. All conversation that he has in the first 20 minutes of the film is platonic and without substance.

He has a single friend, Amy (Amy Adams), but there is a certain degree of unfamiliarity between the two, as if one or most likely both of them have walled themselves off from intimate contact.  As Twombly is established to be a lonely and depressed individual, the irony of his occupation as a heartfelt letter writer becomes clear.

This creation of a society without community merely serves as a backdrop for the main themes of the film. The disconnect of that world is thrown into sharp relief when Samantha is ushered into Twombly’s life.  Introduced as an artificially intelligent operating system that can grow and mature just like any human, Samantha connects instantly with Twombly.  Much of the film consists of lengthy conversations between the two main characters.

It is in these scenes, with soft words exchanged in bed, as Twombly describes his day when the acting of Phoenix and Johansson shines.  Tasked with portraying a character whose long buried emotions are drawn out like poison from a wound, Phoenix had to operate essentially talking to a wall.

In another sound studio far away, Johansson had to voice a disembodied computer that alternates between the girlish glee of discovering a world for the first time and soft pillow talk to sooth Phoenix’s tortured soul.

In writing and directing Her, Spike Jonze took a huge risk.  Had the connection between Twombly and Samantha not seemed sincere and just a result of some program, the heart of the story would be lost.

Twombly and Samantha’s relationship, which contains all the facets of a regular relationship, including the sexual, appears as sincere as in any other romance movie.  Surprisingly, their relationship is mostly accepted by society.  On a double date with Twombly’s co-worker, Paul (Chris Pratt), Samantha is easily able to engage in girl talk with Paul’s girlfriend. The biggest obstacles come from Twombly and Samantha’s own interactions. Samantha’s lack of physical form leads to some stressful circumstances, but their love evolves.

The purpose of Her is not to condone introverted relationships with computers.  The pitfalls of a highly technological society are clear with the crushing sense of loneliness that is projected onto the audience throughout the film.

Rather, it emphasizes the importance of human connection. For what Samantha lacks in physicality she and Twombly make up for in their complete emotional openness exchanged with words.

Is their relationship not better than the people whom Twombly writes letters for, the ones who have become so absorbed by technology that they cannot communicate with their loved ones? In short, the movie proclaims that it is not where the connection comes from that matters, but once that connection comes, you appreciate it and hold on to it even if it is not tangible.

Throughout the movie, the audience’s emotions oscillate between uneasiness and understanding. At times the movie borders on creepy.

The premise of falling in love with a computer at times presents a reality that many fear we are heading towards. However, this offbeat romance movie resonates deeply for those looking for an experience that tests the true definition of love.