What is love? Well, it’s something that can’t be described in mere words. Simply put, it’s something that brings tragedy and thrills to life, a complex feeling that can become the very thing that drives us as people. We all feel it; it’s perhaps the one universal things all living creatures share. Poets, artists, singers, filmmakers have done the best possible job at articulating what love can be, but none do as great of a job as Her, a film that, like love, cannot be done justice in the words of a mere film critic.
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man that has very little to fulfill himself, with video games, writing cards for other people and memories of his past marriage filling his days. But a new operating system, named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) changes everything for him; the two connect, with her eagerness to explore the world helping Theodore feel like a complete person again.
Some movies that I write about actually have some kind of meaning for me, some kind of element that just pushes it to the status of "important film." Her is such a movie, as it simultaneously explores loves, technology and isolation, all elements that I’m truly fascinated by. All of these ideas, presented in ways like you’ve never seen before, are hinged upon the odyssey of Theodore Twombly. A man who has secluded himself, his longing to be isolated covering every one of his actions, Phoenix makes him a complex person, one who constantly has our sympathy, even in his most flawed moments. The genius of this screenplay is actually highlighting those flaws and having them become integral to his character; Theodore is a normal human being and one that suffers from all normal human emotions. Phoenix plays this all iin such a way that is equal parts heartbreaking and wonderfully subtle.
The biggest highlight of the film maybe Scarlett Johansson, who is never seen in a frame of footage in the film as her role as the voice of Samantha. Here’s a part that could have been ordinary in other actresses hands, but with Johansson she gives Samantha a personality, a drive that help make you see why Theodore could fall for her. She has such eagerness for all around her, that her growing as a character is one of the films most fascinating aspects. Like Theodore, Samantha is a complex human being, and navigating human emotions for the first time, it makes for beautiful journey. Taking all of the films most emotional moments to their most potentially potent, both Phoenix and Johansson make the film feel alive and make sure the romance between the two comes over as convincing.
Spike Jonze, directing here for the first time since 2009’s masterpiece Where The Wild Things Are, handles the films tricky plotline with finesse, with little things like clothing that characters wear to major things such as the beautiful score by Arcade Fire. To boot, he also lends the film an identity, with the shooting style of the film being idiosyncratic and honestly unlike any other I’ve seen in other films. Perhaps it’s just the way scenes are lit, or perhaps its the futuristic sets that are eye-catching, or those stupendous actors, or maybe the screenplay that’s one of the best written in ages. Really, it’s all those aspects at once, just helping to create one of the most unique stories ever told. It can be hard to fully put into words how beautiful Her is, but let it be known that is a like nothing else and is truly a masterpiece that will not be soon forgotten. Just like the feeling of being in love.
Grade: A+ (There’s so much beauty and emotional truth to be found in Her; here is perhaps one of the best films ever made)
Film nerd extraordinaire, Douglas Laman loves cinema, good friends and good food in that order.