In this review I'm pointing out the reasons of why I consider HER the best film of 2013. Some people shortly address HER, written and directed by Spike Jonze, as “an unlikely love story of a lonely man and a female-voiced computer” which, in a way, I find underestimating. It's your right to call it whatever you want, but hell, I personally disagree with it. My call is, it's “a love story that proposes an interesting idea about the future”. I tell you why.
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a writer living in a future where everything is voice-based. He recently got divorced. In his loneliness he often thinks about his ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) but when he’s not alone, he’s with his best friend Amy (Amy Adams). One day he buys a new voice-based operating system, OS1, which is considered the first artificially intelligent operating system. Then he’s introduced with Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), the voice of OS1, and as the time goes, he falls for her.
The most original product sometimes comes from the simplest idea. People today type on their touchscreen device. I am writing this review on my touchscreen device. But in the world of HER, the future me is writing by talking. People around me right now are talking with their own device. The communication between human and machine suddenly turns into a direction that only a few people have ever wondered before. Now I want you to imagine the social impact that will happen. Imagine how people interact to each other. Will they be antisocial? Will people be wired in conversations with their own devices? I mean, they're talking! Will it be really noisy in a public place?
The premise itself has already raised many thoughts. When I start thinking about them, I can't stop. They are endless. There are so many possibilities. And Spike Jonze understands that this idea—the idea about the world of HER—somehow triggers layered, limitless arguments which probably also invite plotholes into discussion. He doesn’t want it to be so otherworldly. So he confines his imagination and frames it into something generally accessible in our daily talks: love story. He wants us to get the feel of being a part of this interesting future using the easiest approach. He gives us the chance to wonder an initial question: is the way people fall in love in that future similar to the way we do it right now?
And from there, the entire film starts. OS1 is not only a highly intelligent machine that the film brings to stage; it's also a persona in disguise. Since basically this is a story about love, Jonze doesn’t want us to fall for HER only by our thinking, but also by our feeling. Love is a form of emotion, and he wants our emotion to delve into the new world he has just created. And he perfectly arranges every aspect in HER as his tools to hook the deepest part of our heart. The mood is set. The songs are played. The nuance is established. Palette colors are painted. High-waisted pants are worn. Each and every one of them tenderly carves warmth, loneliness, passion, and affection that never merge into a single noun called love. Because, as the questions are expanding, what is love anyway? Is it simply a form of interaction? Then, how far could a machine be involved in human interactions? Is it really able to fulfill our emotional needs? Can we be in love with a voice in computer?
Because today, people never imagine a man dating with his computer. You’re in a double date and while your friends are cuddling with his girlfriend, you’re flirting (by voice!) with your OS. It is something unimaginable today but doesn’t mean it’s uncommon in the future. At least in HER. Why bother, the chemistry built in between Theodore and Samantha is strong after all. Joaquin Phoenix is wonderful. He compiles broken-hearted ex-husband, passionate adult male, and lonely grown-up altogether in a single ‘box’ called Theodore Twombly. On the surface he is simply a solitary man but Joaquin Phoenix successfully delivers an impression that Theodore is a complex character. And he matches incredibly with Scarlett Johansson’s voice performance. It is difficult to portray a physical figure only by using your voice but in the case of HER, you can feel that Samantha is vivid. She’s living, she’s part of the film.
So, again, why did I call HER a perfect movie last year? A love story has been recycled into so many different films by so many different filmmakers, but using some portions of imagination Spike Jonze restores its simplicity into the most basic form to make us argue about its true definition. Beyond its beauty, beyond its brain-tickling layers, and beyond its compassionate touch, HER has gone through many decades ahead by its originality. It’s currently playing in local cinema. I wanna watch it again. Alone.
▲ Original writing at its best, warm and tender deliverance of romance, great performance by leading actors
HER | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2013 RATING Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity RUNTIME 126 min GENRE Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi CAST Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson WRITER Spike Jonze DIRECTOR Spike Jonze MORE INFO