“Her” is destined to become a classic

An unlikely romance between man and machine proves surprisingly human.


Spike Jonze’s latest masterpiece, “Her”, centers on a traditional plot of a lonely, melancholic man learning to love again—only this time the object of affection isn’t entirely human. The film asks questions about what it means to be alive and love someone in a time where true connections are hard to come by.

In a not-too-distant Los Angeles, Theodore Twombly, (Joaquin Phoenix), struggles overcome his depression. He works for a company that writes intimate “hand-written” love letters for other people, a job he is clearly gifted at, ironically lacking real relationships of his own.

Twombly moves slowly through his daily routine, conversing with only one or two people.  In every shot Twombly’s loneliness is apparent, from his train ride home, where he is surrounded by people, to the emptiness of his bed at night. His former wife Catherine (Rooney Mara), haunts him in flashbacks of their life together. It is unclear why the two broke apart; it seems they simply fell out of synch.

One day, he sees an advertisement for OS1, the first artificially intelligent operating system. The ad promises a product “that listens to you and understands you and knows you.” Tombly quickly buys and downloads the technology onto his home computer and phone. A voice suddenly emanates from the screen and introduces herself as Samantha.

Samantha, brilliantly voiced by Scarlett Johanssen, is the spark missing in Twombly’s life—she is bright, intelligent and authentic. It doesn’t hurt that Johansson’s sultry voice takes Samantha as far from robotic as possible. Despite having no body, her form is vivid, helping Theodore manage his work, appointments, and dishing advice like any other woman.

At first their relationship seems impossible, yet its sincerity rivals any other love story. Twombly takes a walk through the mall one day, holding his camera in his pocket so that Samantha can see, and the two create story lines for passing strangers. She remarks that he has a good eye for people, and he tells her she is very perceptive. As they fall in love Samantha grows past her software could ever have predicted. She becomes more than just a machine, but a truly capable being.

However, when Twombly meets with his ex-wife to sign the divorce papers, he tells her about the new relationship and she asks incredulously, “You’re dating your computer?”

“She is not just a computer,” he answers.

But nothing can stay simple forever. Samantha is ever evolving and intangible, while Theodore is stuck in physical form. She helps draw him outwards, yet he is ever chasing her, and doubts if their relationship can be real. As her technology changes, her abilities grow exponentially, sometimes leading away from him. It is as if the two are constantly together, yet never sure if they’re with each other at all.

When the credits roll, you will have been taken on an adventure. Not only is the acting superb, especially Johanssen (despite the fact that she is never visible) but the visuals are gorgeous too. The muted color palette subtly takes the viewer into the future, not one with flying hoverboards and walking robots, but one where technology has been inconspicuously folded into life.

There is a good chance this movie will change your opinion on some of life’s bigger questions –mostly what it means to be human and how far you would be willing to go for love. I would rate the film an A.

“Her” is rated R for language and sexual content. It is currently open in all theaters.