Critic’s Corner: The Love Affair with ‘Her’


Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

When I got my first iPhone, we experienced quite a honeymoon period. I found any excuse I could to interact with the bright and shiny device and was enamored with its interface. I showed it off to everyone, treated it well and, because I stowed it in my pants’ pocket, we were literally attached at the hip.

Over time, I grew accustomed to my phone and our relationship came to be second nature. I allowed scratches to accumulate on its screen, but still harbored fond feelings for it.

Then came stage three: frustration. I grew less and less tolerant of my phone’s flaws and technology’s omnipresence in my life. I began to leave my phone at home and resent my dependence on it.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Spike Jonze’s latest picture “Her” shows just how terrifyingly real our obsession with technology is, but proves that our dependence on one another will triumph in
the end.

Now, our affair is nearing its end. Today, I find our relationship so stale I don’t know why we’re still together. Out of habit, I guess.

It’s only a matter of time before I trade it out for a hotter, smarter model.

It seems director Spike Jonze relates to my plight—or, really, the plight of all wired-in society. His captivating new film “Her” walks us through humankind’s evolving relationship with technology and addresses the limitations that accompany it. Jonze’s thinly veiled, but artfully constructed commentary on human nature is both refreshing and relevant.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely writer going through a divorce, spends his weekdays writing letters to other people’s loved ones and his weekends calling adult chat lines to ease the pain of loneliness. But when he updates his operating system, Twombly thinks he’s found his soul mate and a new outlook on life. As he begins to develop a romantic relationship with his OS Samantha (beautifully voiced by Scarlett Johannson), he begins to trudge out of his emotional funk.

Although Twombly’s relationship with his computer makes him more dependent on technology than ever before, their connection stirs in him a long-dead appreciation for the natural world and the complex human relationships within it.

The integration of technology in Twombly’s world is vast, thoughtful and scarily possible. At the beginning of the film, pedestrians are so attuned to their smart phones and so unaware of their physical surroundings, they look like zombies.

The aesthetic of the film’s urban world is particularly well crafted—the Los Angeles setting is vaguely reminiscent of iOS 7 with its clean, stark lines and a color palette likely inspired by Apple. I felt like I was actually inside my iPhone for much of the film.

The film’s poetic take on artificial intelligence is as developed and provocative as its art direction. Unlike the menacing robots featured in most tech-wary tales about the future, Samantha is a sensitive vehicle through which we can critically discuss, rather than condemn or praise, computer mediated communication. Her ability and desire to emotionally connect with Phoenix’s endearing Twombly drives home the film’s central message: No matter how invasive technology has or will become, it is in our nature to seek out meaningful contact with other humans.

Although we are and will continue to be dependent on technology, we will always be even more dependent on one another.