Movie Review: Joaquin Pheonix in “Her”

Annie McKay

Spike Jonze’s “Her” is a brilliant film that takes a look into the future and examines the potential of human-computer relationships. While many find the premise to be disturbing, the film itself is fascinating and arguably not too far off from the direction we are heading with our reliance on technology. “Her” is nominated for Best Picture, Production Design and Best Original Screenplay in this year’s 86th Annual Academy Awards, which will take place on March 2.

The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a writer struggling to get over his recent divorce with his lifelong love. He works for a company that creates personalized cards and goes home to his lonely apartment every night to play video games. When he sees an advertisement for a humanlike operating system (OS), he buys one. Later that night, he downloads the OS at his apartment and meets Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson) with whom he soon falls in love. She listens to his worries about his divorce, his feelings about life and his concerns about his future. She also has the ability to quickly search his e-mails, look information up instantly and compose music. Theodore is able to carry Samantha around in his phone wherever he goes. The two can have normal conversations, as Samantha is designed as a much more personal, humanized Siri. A lonely Theodore soon finds a way to form a relationship with Samantha, despite how odd the circumstances may seem.

Throughout the film, Theodore maintains a steady friendship with Amy (Amy Adams), a filmmaker who lives in his building. The two bond over their relationship with their OSs. Amy’s is a female, and she feels an extremely close bond and friendship with it. Theodore confides in Amy that he is dating his OS. The world created in the film is almost completely accepting of relationships with computers. By this point in time, no one thinks twice about being in a relationship with a computer. At one point, Theodore’s co-worker asks if Theodore and Samantha would like to join him and his girlfriend on a double date. When Theodore explains that Samantha is an OS, his coworker doesn’t flinch, and insists that the two come along. On their date, Theodore sits his phone down next to him as his girlfriend, which is completely accepted as normal.

 Phoenix does a fantastic job in this film, convincing the viewer that he actually is able to fall in love with this computer. As the viewer, we forget at times that Samantha is an OS and not a human speaking on the phone. Once in a while, Jonze will remind us that Samantha is an OS, which shocks the viewer back into reality. Theodore ultimately falls so in love with Samantha and is so reliant on her that it hardly seems possible that she is a computer. “Her” brings up debates about the need for genuine human connection and the severity and risks that come with our reliance on computers. It is a film that is ultimately encouraging about our need for human connection.