Something about Her.
By Adam Sturrock
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara
Writer: Spike Jonze
It seems as if as technology progresses forwards, further into the vast universe of possibility, relationships ironically seem automated, regressive and no longer natural; card companies write what we want to express to our loved ones, dating sites are booming now as this massive world is compressed into a tennis ball via just a click away.
Her by Spike Jonze is centered around the question of “To what extent can relationships be mechanized?” In this woozy, warm and at times heart-felt story, we meet Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) who works at a card company writing personalized letters on a person’s behalf. He has the capacity for love, but his previous marriage has left him socially awkward and humble. Still reminiscing of his previous flame (Mara), Theodore installs an intelligent operating system called Samantha (voiced by the terrific Johannson) as a way to comfort and control his unravelling life. She sifts through his emails, writes music for them and gradually develops into – outside of a physical body- a person with as many complex emotions and feelings that anybody else would have. But can Samantha truly love?
The film ponders throughout if the emotions expressed by Samantha are real or is it just a result of her programming? The morals of falling in love with what is deemed to be an amalgamation of circuitry continues to baffle characters in the film. Indeed this is typified by Mara’s scathing critique of Theodore during their divorce, bluntly proclaiming: “He couldn’t deal with me, tried to put me on Prozac and now he’s in love with his laptop”. Being obsessed with something outside of a physical person leads to social seclusion and those same intense feelings are felt when Twombly is deemed creepy by a blind date and our heartstrings play in tune with his. Theodore’s love for Samantha has expanded past the rationality of a physical being. Samantha devotedly exclaims to Theodore: “The heart’s not like a box that gets filled up. It expands inside the more you love”, but at what point does this love for a computer become obscene? Are they truly in love? Is he doomed to be obsessive with electronic gadgets in the same way as a crazy cat lady is obsessed with her felines? Very few films of this genre dare to answer such questions in the way that Her does or even think about presenting these questions at all. The physical part of every relationship is a lynchpin of what makes or breaks romance, so how can the two cope without physical contact at all?