What can be said about Spike Jonze’s Her? To call it brilliant would be a crime of over-simplification, for the complexity of Johansson and Phoenix’s relationship not only tugs at the heart, but at the rational human mind, and our basic sense of what it means to love. Scarlet Johansson haunts us, acting as the voice within Phoenix’s, as well as our, head, that we are itching to understand and set free. I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of relief at the end of the film (SPOILER), when she admits that she must leave, now developing exponentially and entering into an intellectual space that would be otherwise limited through basic human interaction. I say relieved because the carefree and childish love Samantha and Theodore had for one another was breathtaking, and it broke my heart to even try and grasp the distress of that kind of physical barrier. On that same note, I cannot speak of Jonze’s masterpiece, without also speaking of Joaquin Phoenix’s timeless and unforgettable performance. To keep an audience captivated, while remaining alone on screen for the majority of a film is difficult, and Phoenix delivered those scenes with eloquence and grace. His back and fourth emotional battle, through the help of Jonze’s writing, mimicked basic ever-changing human nature. He radiated a sweet loneliness and a gentle helplessness that developed with the coming of each new scene. His performance paralleled the soft sounds of Arcade Fire’s original music score, and Phoenix proved, once again, his exceptional ability to dive in deep to the intricacies and complexities of the characters he takes on.
Her evokes a sense of self-reflection in the viewer, calling for him or her to ask him/herself if he/she could ever imagine being in a situation like that of the protagonist? Can we love a computer? The common answer is no, and probably would be a hard no, had you not watched this movie—but the story and the ways in which it unfolds made me, at least, question a concept I used to accept as fact. Theodore and Samantha are in a conceptually long-distance relationship, so to speak, resulting in an even deeper intellectual understanding of one another. Is this more valuable than physicality? Are programmed emotions and thoughts, ones learned through complicated algorithms and numerical systems, that much different than our own? Are they real? Throughout our short lives, we have come to learn societal cues that trigger happiness and sadness, amongst other emotions, but do we also have intrinsic, or rather, purely instinctual inclinations to feel certain things? This might be the only way, if at all, to distinguish us from artificial intelligence.
Finally, what can be said about the implications of this film? Yes, it is easy to call it a social commentary on our growing state of dependency on all things “smart” and electronic, but is it a warning or a film that aims to simply give us a glimpse into the very possible reality of the near future? Unlike iRobot, or other futuristic computer-centric films of the past, Her seems to me to be more of an honest and fresh perspective of the coming developments in humanity. Maybe in 100 years, or less, we will be able to form relationships with artificial intelligence, whether one agrees or disagrees that these relationships can amount to “love,” might not be relevant right now. Our society seems to obsess over smart tech, and it is inevitable that we will one day demand a smarter and more human-like operating system that is catered to our unique personalities. Why is it so far fetched, or even wrong, to think that humanity might evolve to allow for more multifaceted human-computer relationships to exist? Perhaps, Jonze sought to do just that–bring into the public discourse the very real possibility that this is the future, and it is ok to be ok with it.