Phips’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is why I love cinema. Every so often a film comes along and pierces through you and rocks you to your core. It feels like the film is speaking directly to you--like it was made for you. An emotional, personal bond is created between the viewer and the production and something magical happens. I honestly don't know if this has ever happened to me before; I have identified with some films but I cannot recall ever feeling this connected to a film. I think I fell in love a mere 10 minutes in.
Immediately I was struck by the vibrant, dense colors and the slight futuristic feel of things. Throughout the entirety of the film we are never told when this is all supposed to be taking place, and for the longest time I couldn't even figure out where. Eventually we find out that it's set in Los Angeles but something about it seems evolved and futuristic. Obviously, the crux of this film revolves around advanced technology and artificial intelligence but nothing about it seems so far off. There aren't flying cars or lasers or robots. Instead, it feels like now. It feels like present day Los Angeles. It feels so real. And such a feeling halts us from falling prey to believing that this might occur in the future and keeps us centered in the now--creating a shared, relatable connection.
Before seeing Her I knew that it was a love story but I was not aware of how powerful of a love story it would be. People, like characters in the film, might scoff at the notion of man and OS falling in love and having a relationship, but Her shows us all that falling in love and having a true connection with someone isn't superficial. It isn't about the looks or the job or the possessions or the status or the pay stub; instead, it's about the bond established between two entities that centers around a sense of security, closeness, happiness, comfort, etc. As farfetched as it may sound given the characters involved, this is the best love story I've ever seen committed to screen. What I was not expecting was the amount of comedy drizzled on top of it all. There were real funny situations and real laughs to be had--better laughs than most modern comedies. Walking away I think the way to describe this best is by calling it a barely-sci-fi romantic dramedy.
I see that Spike Jonze's screenplay and Joaquin Phoenix are garnering all sorts of praise and award nominations, and I feel that such plaudits are entirely justified. Phoenix, in my opinion, has never been better. He gives a mesmerizing performance wrought with vulnerability, love, and despair, and he does this while spending most of his time on screen talking to himself, without the aid of another actor to react to & play off of. I saw The Master last year and thought that he was fantastic then as well and while that role is entirely different than this one, I do feel that Her is his best performance. I truly hope he gets recognized for it. Come March 2nd 2014 it is going to be really tough for me to decide between Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club and Phoenix here. Also, I heard rumblings about people wanting to see Scarlett Johansson nominated for her role, despite it being entirely voiceover. As strange as it is, like Theodore, I felt like she was there. I'm sure it was the way that the film was presented and the way the script was written but it didn't feel like a voiceover. What's even stranger is that I have, on many occasions, written her off as an actress and mocked her ability, or lack thereof. Maybe the fact that she wasn't physically acting helped me enjoy her presence. Or maybe its just that she has an amazingly sultry, sexy voice.
I think what I loved most about this film though was a small vein running through it. With a story involving a relationship between an OS and a human it is inevitable that the factor of intangibility will arise. Samantha questions Theodore about how it feels to be alive and he realizes that even though he has blood coursing through his veins, he is alive as much as she is. She causes him to face the fact that he hasn't truly been alive in awhile, and she helps him wake up and begin living life again, falling in love with her zest for life along the way. Amidst our bustling lives and busy schedules and many commitments we often forget to live and lose sight of how wonderful life can be when we embrace it to the fullest. It's such an inspiring message that Jonze tucked ever-so-slightly in there.
A 5-star rating is rare praise from me but this was a no-brainer. Her is a stunning film with an amazing, touching story that is only amplified by the work of Joaquin Phoenix and Spike Jonze's wonderful vision. It is also easily my favorite film of 2013 and could become one of my favorite films of all time. A must see in my opinion.