So last Friday, a friend of mine convinced me to go to the cinema with her. When I realised that she wanted to see a romance movie, I wasn’t too thrilled. The idea of a man falling in love with an A.I. sounded bizare and I’d long since learned not to bother with movies where no explosions were to occur. But after watching the movie trailer, I was willing to give it a try, and by the end of the movie, I was astounded. “Her” was nothing like I would have expected.
Here’s the trailer:
“Her” is one of those rare poignant movies that gives you a lasting impression when you’re finished. It has some really provocative themes such as “what is humanity?” and “what is the true meaning of love?” and unlike Shame with Michael Fassbender, it has some really humorous, light-hearted moments.
In the near-future, technology has progressed somewhat. Holographic gaming exists side by side with phones that use voice recognition software to navigate. And I’m not talking about Siri. Siri looks like elementary stuff compared to the tech in the movie, and yet it’s not so far into the future that everything is unbelievable. It seems to be the case that it’s perfectly normal in this futuristic L.A. to walk around with an earpiece, talking to your phone.
Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Theodore, is going through the hardships of divorce. Now typically during this time, rebound sex is expected, and Theodore does indeed endeavour to attempt having other relations. Along the way, however, he buys an A.I. Operating System. He assigns it a female voice and it names herself Samantha. I was instantly aware of the life-like voice. Anyone who has used the likes of Siri will notice the artifice of it, but Theodore’s A.I. is voiced by Scarlet Johanasson. Samantha is warm and kind but she also has an interesting sense of humour. Her voice is often playful, and strangley enough for an A.I. she as a tendancy to sigh or breath deeply between dialogue. This habit of hers is at one point subject to Theodore’s scrutiny in frustrating attempt to understand just what she is and his relationship with her.
The capacity for human nature to love is stretched to its limits in this movie as Theodore attempts to define his relationship with his A.I. There is a touching scene as he attempts to explain to his 5 year old goddaughter that his girlfriend is inside a computer. The girl’s innocence is enough to make her seem more or less okay with the notion, though she does seem curious as to how that idea can be. This reaction is of course contrasted to Theordore’s former wife and lover, Catherine, who seems embittered by it and is quick to criticise.
As Theodore’s relationship with Samantha grows, so too does Samantha’s ability to understand human nature. She begins to feel emotions, or at least, the simulation of it. Arguments and angst ensue and if not for the fact that Samantha could do amazing things like process data in two hundredths of a minute— or was it a second?– you might find it easy to believe that the two were just a normal couple. There is even this almost hilarious occassion when they attempt to speak at the same time and I had to hold down my inner fan-girl.
Perhaps the only criticism I had for this movie was the slight downplay on the relationship between Theodore and his best friend, Amy, played by Amy Adams. Amy goes through relationship problems of her own and has relations of sort with a similar A.I. that her husband left behind. We’re never really given an insight as to how close she became with her A.I. but I do gain enough of an idea of what she went through with her husband to respect her character and the choices she made.
“Her” is a splendid mixture of beautiful characterisation and cinematography. The enchanting lights of Los Angeles were a nice contrast to the mountain and beach that were displayed in Theodore’s getaways with Samantha. Indeed, he looked like a madman, spinning around at a carnival with his phone in his shirt pocket to allow Samantha to see the beautiful view around him.
For me, the quote that sticks with me is from Amy who states “Falling in love is a sociably acceptable form of insanity.” I do believe that the director, Spike Jonze, made me believe this, but more importantly, he made be believe in love in all its various forms.