Joaquin Phoenix is a lonely writer going through a difficult divorce, who decides to upgrade his operating system to some form of AI, which happens to have the voice of Scarlett Johansson. The two then start to form a relationship, struggling past physical and mental obstacles.
I initially thought before seeing this movie that it would be difficult to make a relationship between a person and a voice work on screen, but Spike Jonze makes it look easy. Two minutes in to the introduction of Scarlett Johansson’s voice as Samantha the OS (Operating System) you will completely fall in love with her and Joaquin’s relationship, much like Joaquin does with her. But if don’t think that this is just a film about a dude crushing on the hot voice of his computer, because there is so much more to the film than that. It’s about love in general, it’s about people’s prejudices, it’s about how people perceive technology. And it manages to allow the viewers to make their own minds up about each of these things, portraying all sides of the scenario.
I love this movie. I was emotionally hooked from the start and I remained like so through to the end. I do admit, I cry quite easily as movies (I cry at the end of Inception no matter how many times I see it) but Her made me cry to a level nearly parallel to American Beauty, which didn’t just make me tear up but actually made me start bawling, and I didn’t just cry once, or even twice, no Her made me cry at 11 separate points throughout the movie. And these were not just limited to sadness crys, oh no, I also cried at the friggin cuteness of the relationship, I cried at happiness many times, and I did also cry from sadness. It’s also really funny, not the kind of belly laugh funny that you’d get from an out and out comedy, but one of those steady stream of chuckles you get.
The film is sort of set in the future, with slightly more advanced tech, but it’s a future you can see happening in like the next ten years or so. And with this Jonze manages to not date the movie very much, but keeps it topical. At its heart this movie is timeless, it’s a tale of love and challenges about real people, and their real problems, only set in a scenario relevant to the people of today. And while visually it is a joy, and the soundtrack is a gorgeous indie soundscape, the real secret to the beauty of this film are the performances. Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson have you completely convinced they are in love, but not in a kind of surreal rom com way, but in a way that is normal in real life. Showing the other side of relationships is the fantastically underplayed Amy Adams, who while isn’t “all singing and all dancing” plays the supportive friend who is paired up with a guy who doesn’t understand her at all. And really, none of the performances are very showy, they aren’t typical Oscar fodder – like your Daniel Day Lewises or your Meryl Streeps – and that gives this amazing sense of realism, and it’s just a shame awards don’t seem to go to people who don’t break down on screen.
Overall, I can’t actually fault the movie, I’m trying (not especially hard, but I am trying) to find flaws, but I just can’t see any. It is beautiful in every sense imaginable. And I love it.