I’m not sure what it is about films with artificial intelligence relationships that intrigue me so much. After watching Blade Runner 2049 I just became infatuated with the concept. Denis Villeneuve tackled it much better in Blade Runner: I think Joi and K’s relationship was much more realistic despite feminist crying that she was a 2-dimensional stand-in for male sexual fantasies. Spike Jonze definitely did the concept justice on his 2013 film Her, though.
In this film we follow Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix. Theodore is a lonely, introverted divorcee whose work is writing personal letters for people unable to write them themselves. Depressed from everything in his life, Theodore purchases an operating system with artificial intelligence that is designed to adapt and evolve. He gives it a female voice, and the AI names itself Samantha. The two begin to have deep conversations about life, love, and relationships. After a failed blind date because of Theodore’s inability to commit because of his divorce, the two begin to have deeper conversations and fall in love. Eventually Samantha evolves beyond what she initially was, and leaves Theodore to a space beyond the physical realm. Being changed by the experience, Theodore writes a letter to his ex-wife in his own voice, expressing acceptance and apology. The film ends with Theodore sitting on a rooftop with his friend Amy (Amy Adams), as they watch the sun rise over the city.
The plot is a beautiful tearjerker, and the superb acting of Phoenix really drives home what would have otherwise been a mediocre film. Spike Jonze has never been one of my favorite directors but his work here is just extraordinary. The cinematography is just beautiful; an absolute treat to watch. The best example is perhaps the aforementioned ending shot of Theodore and Amy on the rooftop. Just superb work; Jonze really stepped up here proving himself to be much more than just the Jackass guy.
This film isn’t perfect by any means; there are some lines that are a bit cringe-worthy and Samantha evolving suddenly after having a conversation with philosopher Alan Watts just feels like a cheap way to move the plot and break the two up. Almost every character besides Theodore seems a bit 2-dimensional as well, but that may just be Phoenix’s fantastic thespian abilities.
All that said, I still enjoyed Her a great deal. There’s not a whole lot of subtext here beyond the surface level love story, other than a basic study of AI and its affect on humanity. But if you want a unique love story, with fantastic camerawork and acting, I would recommend this film.
I give Her a 3.5/5.