HER was an interesting and challenging experience. With a compelling script, Spike Jonze was able to stir up issues and themes that we often don’t confront. They are obviously consuming us, but we don’t seem to recognize them. Its like everyone walking down a street is immersed in their world, their laptop, their smart phone, their little tablet and there is a complete disconnection from everything and everyone around. And while the story went along casually on screen, with subtle nudging, the filmmaker was constantly pushing to test our limits….with every scene, with every new revelation.
The film takes this very modern day problem of everyone being consumed by everything technology. And then Jonze takes it to another level; his protagonist Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is recovering from an impending divorce and while he grapples with his loneliness and misery of having lost his love, he is completely taken by a new operating system (OS) he installs on his computer. Through the course of the film the OS begins to evolve and take new form, new emotional shape in Theodore’s life. It interacts with him, begins thinking for him, doing things for him, sharing with him, having sex with him…and soon is a ‘real’ part of his life. Theodore after some hesitation tells himself that he is dating this OS, (who is identified as Samantha, with brilliant voice-over by Scarlett Johansson).
A full relationship starts to form, that lacks only one thing: that Samantha does not have physical form and is artificial intelligence working from/in a computer.
The strength and weakness of this relationship is that it lacks/requires no definition. Its only when Theodore (and to some extent Samantha) start referencing their relationship to the only other they know (human relationships) they are destined to fail.
The film lacks any dramatic moments that would make you sit and take notice. There are no over the top dialogues, histrionics or crying. The sullen nature of the narrative, makes you follow along, with this all pervading question of .. where are we going? What is happening to our human relationships, why are we finding more comfort with these gadgets, these ‘unreal’ things who now have identities and names. And how did we move on from talking to our pets to talking to machines and calling it ‘interaction’?
The story peeks and perhaps is the critique that Jonze wants to bring to us: when human failings of judgment, inconsideration, impatience and jealousy creep in, even a relationship with an OS becomes like any other, and goes through a spiral of emotional meltdown. Theodore becomes jealous that Samantha talks to other people, while she is with him. She even confesses of loving over six hundred people, though she claims to love him too.
The two most poignant moments of the film are when Theodore comes face to face with his ex-wife (played by Rooney Mara) and she confronts him of being insane, coz instead of dealing with a real wife, a real life, he sought refuge in a relationship with a computer. And second when for a brief moment the OS stops responding owing to a malfunction, Theodore is seen running around like a chicken without a head, not knowing what to do, as he thinks Samantha is gone and having been so accustomed and dependent on her, he couldn’t imagine living without her.
HER is about us, about who we are as people and how the core of our human experience is that, our human experience. I just hope we make films about it and realize that we are headed down a dangerous path, than make films, watch em and continue to live like nothing ever happened.
image source: hollywoodreporter.com