Daniel Webb’s review published on Letterboxd:
Her and the colour RED.
The future depicted in Her is definitely a dystopian one, I mean, look at the trousers they wear! No but seriously, it may seem like everything is just peaches and cream, but there is something wrong with this world. Everything is bland, from the clothes that people wear to the range of emotions they allow themselves to feel. In this environment where most colours have been washed out, the splashes of red become very important. Red indicates passion, emotions.
First of all, DP Hoyte van Hoytema is a breath of fresh air in a business that for years has suffered from the "terracotta/teal virus". By this I mean the incessant habit of colour-grading films with orange and teal. If you hadn't noticed before, I'm sorry for bringing it to your attention now, because you will see it everywhere. Someone at some point discovered that skin tones look really good somewhere near orange/terracotta, and on the other side of the colour spectrum lies teal. Since then, almost all Hollywood films look exactly the same. Luckily though there are still some artists out there who like to paint with different colours, van Hoytema is one of them!
Back to the colour red in Her; it ebbs and flows depending on the emotional state of Theodore Twombly. The film's protagonist is very much in tune with his emotions, a trait that cuts both ways. The emotionally stunted people around him rely on his passion; he writes the love letters that they are unable to, but his sensitive nature also makes him vulnerable to heartache. "How would you know what real emotions are?" Theodore wants to ask his ex, Catherine, after she accuses him of not being able to handle real emotions. It weighs heavy on him sometimes that he feels more than the rest of the world.
Theodore wears red a lot when he is in a normal emotional state, or when he is happy. This offsets him from others, like his friends Amy and Charles, who are unhappy in their relationship and are wearing bland colours (note how Amy starts wearing red later on in the film after she chooses to leave Charles). There is also a subjectivity to the colours in the film. The world around Theodore changes with his mood. When he is feeling melancholy and stares out his window we see a city of white and grey, very little colour. The colours that appear around him are very muted, only pastels here and there. When he is happy, in the fairground, for instance, or on the beach, the world is filled with colours, predominantly blue, green and red.
The use of colour in Her is never too distracting, I find. On multiple viewings I start to see more detail here and there, which really is a joy. I wish more films would experiment with their colours like this one.