Ross Birks’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for Spike Jonze. Who isn’t? I love the way he looks at the world, I love the way he sees people, the details he emphasises and the flaws he taps into. He’s always been an important source of inspiration for me, and undoubtedly for thousands of others. He seems drawn to certain type of person, a lost creative who’s more in tune with his imagination than the textures of reality and I think that’s something we can all relate to in some way. His work always feels wonderfully childlike to me. There’s a gentleness and an innocence that runs through it all, a shyness he seems determined to protect.
Now firstly, Her is an incredible movie. It is Spike Jonze through and through, pure and undiluted. Everything I mentioned above is present and central here. The bright, soft-rainbow colour palette reminds me of a child’s pack of crayons. The central story of Theodore Twombly, a writer who finds satisfaction and love in the shape of his operating system as opposed to a real woman too is the natural progression of themes he previously explored in his short film I’m Here. It’s a truly original and moving modern romance, part fantasy and part cautionary-tale that asks the question: is this the future we’re heading towards?
How many of us have been told by our boyfriend or girlfriend to stop playing on our phones and pay them some attention instead? How much time do we spend day-to-day with our head ignited by the glow of an electrical appliance? If we have a question we want answering do we ask a person or our internet browser? It brings to question who or what it is we actually rely on in this day and age, and who or what actually need. It’s a scary and timely thought. The future of Her is merely a sleeker and cleaner mirror to our present, slightly distorted and heightened. It’s a future that is fully realised and beautifully explored.
There’s a fear and a nervousness in Theodore toward human interaction. He’s afraid of exposing himself, afraid of human touch. Theodore instead turns to his operating system which, as all operating systems are, is designed to comfort and satisfy him. When two human beings actually touch in this movie, it feels important. When two human beings talk, it feels genuine and real. Throughout the film I found myself sucked into the romance but simultaneously heartbroken by the falsity of it. It’s a lie. Is Samantha genuinely in love with Theodore? Or is she just a highly complex program telling him what he wants to hear? It’s to the credit of Jonze, Phoenix and Johansson that we fully buy into this romance, that we see Samantha as a her, and not an it. While we know she isn’t real and never can be, we too fall for her. There’s a moment when Amy Adams’ character tells Theodore that following her breakup with her husband, her own OS has become her shoulder to cry on, that it is helping and mending her. It’s a painful moment. It brings into focus how insignificant and manufactured Theodore and Samantha’s relationship actually is. Their relationship is not unique. To Samantha, he is merely one of many. She cannot commit to him like a human being can. He can’t rely on her like he can a real woman. There is no warmth to be shared. In that moment, my heart cracked. In that moment, I appreciated every moment of human interaction that came after it.
I really loved this film. The bittersweet, melancholic tone is beautifully pitched as are all the performances. It’s a very risky film, one which could have easily slipped into parody and ridiculousness but Jonze keeps it grounded with a gentle delicacy. The emotions never cease to feel real. When Theodore and his soon-to-be ex-wife Isabelle (Rooney Mara) are faced with the divorce papers, Jonze lingers on the hesitation in Mara’s hand just a second longer than anyone else would and it is sublime. In that moment you can feel a chapter of someone’s life coming to a close and thousands of hours of happiness and human love reaching a full stop. It’s one stunning moment in a film loaded with many. It moved me to no end and I can’t wait to go through it all again.