Spike Jonze's Her is a gorgeous melancholy and well-crafted movie peppered with humor that uses its sci-fi setting as a platform to investigate the shifting nature of love.
Jonze has created a picture of the near future that has only minor alterations from today's times.
It is a future in which everyone is nearly always hooked onto their computers, in which sleek high-speed trains and open offices are popular, and in which the color orange and high-waisted charcoal trousers are fashionable for some reason.
However, his image of a utopian, linked future simply acts as a backdrop for the very current dilemma of what influence our ever-increasing reliance on technology has on ourselves and our relationships.
The first time you see "Her," it seems like a miracle.
The key question in Her is not whether machines can think, but if humans can still feel. 'Her' is captivating and unorthodox, but not a psychotic story of love. You could already be in a relationship with your smartphone or computer if you're reading this review on it!
It's disarming to witness Joaquin Phoenix make an unreserved proclamation of eternal love to an invisible soul mate in the film's opening images.
The actor is unaffected, honest, and devoid of the tormented quirkiness that characterizes the majority of the roles he performs.
It's like slipping into a soft, cozy hug.
Then one realizes that the proclamation isn't his, but rather what he, or rather, his character, Theodore, does for a living.
As the film progresses and the viewer learns more about what an ordinary guy Theodore is—he checks his email on the way home from work, just like pretty much everyone these days.
Director Spike Jonze, who also wrote the screenplay, creates a beguiling cinematic world that begins to embrace the audience.
Theodore's smartphone and earpiece function differently from ours, and it soon becomes evident that "Her" is a science-fiction picture set in a not-too-distant but definitely bizarre future.
A large part of the film's allure is Jonze's meticulous imagination and construction of this futuristic Los Angeles, from its smoggy skies to its gleaming skyscrapers to its efficient mass transit system and much more.
The future premise sets the backdrop for an intriguing love tale in which Theo, who is still deeply traumatized and sensitive as a result of his marriage's dissolution, falls in love with his computer's advanced AI operating system.
The film depicts this device being sold and, presumably, purchased in large quantities, but it concentrates on Theo's contact with his OS, to which he gives a female voice.
The female voice introduces herself as "Samantha," and soon Samantha begins rearranging Theo's data, making him laugh, and creating something resembling a human conscience.
The film, inexorably, unfolds in a sentimental and moralistic manner, but it is seductive and nefarious when it suggests that their relationship is part of an evolving and re-normalizing landscape: a world in which men and women are increasingly having relationships with their "OS," and the stigma is fading.
The film's bittersweet last act, in particular, is masterfully constructed, not just in the revelation of their precarious relationship and Samantha's potential to love beyond human comprehension, but also in the way an artificial connection awakens Theodore's appreciation for human friendship.
It's about our basic yearning for connection and our inherent fear of becoming lost inside it.
We should not be afraid of genuine emotions; rather, we should embrace and learn from them.
And the lovely irony is that Theodore learns this through something that is a simulation of humanity, something that many of us, including myself, believe is at the basis of the problem.
Sometimes the emptiness is required to show you what is truly important.
And we must never forget that our ability to adapt and actually experience things is what distinguishes us as humans.
The anti-social aspect of most social media is a fascinating conundrum, filling a void while yet creating a yearning.
The film's actual star is its magnificent cinematography.
Colorful pastels, lens flare, and soft-focus backdrops serve to highlight Jonze's stylized picture of a future Los Angeles.
Her is a tremendously engaging, touching, and amusing film that will undoubtedly leave the viewer with more to think about after each watch.
There are times when "Her" has the feel of a private transmission as if Mr. Jonze is whispering a secret in your ear.
The film's small scope, quiet beauty, and the story's deliberate banality all contribute to its enjoyment.
From Theodore's wide-open face to the diffused lighting and the ravishingly wonderful sherbet palette filled with mellow yellows, peaceful tangerines, and coral pinks, "Her" appears subdued, affable, and vividly sensuous, in contrast to the harsh shininess of so many science-fiction films.
This is a film you want to reach out and caress, about a man who, like everyone else in the near future, has turned away from humans and into a technological world.
The key question in Her is not whether machines can think, but if humans can still feel.
'Her' is captivating and unorthodox, but not a psychotic story of love.
You could already be in a relationship with your smartphone or computer if you're reading this review on it!
Author: Akash R. Ekka
Editor: Rachita Biswas