Her

Her ★★★★½

Her begins with deception. Joaquin Phoenix stares into the camera and professes his love for "Chris." He then refers to their 50-year marriage, and he calls himself a girl. He ends by saying, "Happy Anniversary, my love and my friend til the end. Loretta. Print." The camera zooms out. We now understand: he is writing a letter for someone else as someone else.

Her explores fabricated humans, emotions, actions, and consciousness. From the very beginning, characters rob each other of their agency, and new technologies replace previous cornerstones of our daily life. The protagonist, Theodore Twombly, gets paid to write intimate letters on behalf of other people. He creates illusions of love, but everyone accepts it as truth. Theodore's love interest and "Operating System," Samantha, creates an illusion of being human, and Theodore falls in love with her regardless. What choices do we reject when we trust in illusions? What truths do we deny?

These love letters and Operating Systems also seem unnecessary. Shouldn't people write letters themselves? Shouldn't people check emails themselves? We don't need someone else to do it for us – at least in 2013 or 2021, we don't.

Her also ends with deception by Samantha (in Theodore's perspective). Who do we sympathize with? What did Theodore gain and lose over the course of this movie?

I am asking slightly unusual questions about this movie. Her is clearly about loneliness and relationships, and how the absence of a human body can influence the physical and emotional dimensions of relationships. But it can also ask other philosophical questions like the ones I laid out above, and that shows the enduring complexity and allure of this film.

This movie was also very visually pleasing. Theodore is a soft-spoken person who does not draw attention to himself, yet he frequently wears red and orange. The warm colors of his surroundings and the generous sunlight made for a surprising contrast from the signature green of most sci-fi movies set in the future. Of course, I need to acknowledge Arcade Fire's original music – one of the best soundtracks of the 2010s. Haunting, soulful, lingering. "Loneliness #3" will forever be one of my favorite themes from any movie soundtrack.

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Blu-ray at a Stanford Library.
Also, Rooney Mara + Joaquin Phoenix might be my favorite power couple of actors.