Modern romance has become more and more complicated, but this is undoubtedly the first love story between a human being and a computer operating system.
Surprisingly, Her does not treat its story as a comedy of a human in love with an inanimate object – like the fine 2007 comic drama Lars and the Real Girl. No, director Spike Jonze has something much more subversive in mind, which I suppose should not be a big surprise to people who are familiar with Jonze’s previous films Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Where the Wild Things Are.
Her takes a unexpectedly serious look at modern love and isolation. It takes on a pretty heavy question, in a world where technology is increasingly central in human lives, is it such a stretch that people could become emotionally attached, even romantically involved, with their machines? Let’s face it, technologically we are probably a lot closer than we might imagine to this kind of thing becoming a reality. Most people have way more Facebook friends than real friends, after all, so is it that huge a leap to think that eventually some people will just subtract other humans from the equation?
But as the old saying goes, just because we can do it, does that mean we should do it? Her does not exactly judge one way or the other on that question, however it takes an interesting look at some of the potential ethical and emotional ramifications of such a coupling.
Her takes place in Los Angeles, at an unspecified time in the not very distant future.
Theodore Twembley (Joaquin Phoenix) is a depressed office worker whose wife left him a year earlier. He works for a website company which specializes in creating “handwritten” notes to loved ones for fee. Theodore spends his days baring emotions to strangers as though they were from other strangers. Most nights are spent on virtual reality video games or internet porn. He has a gorgeous apartment, some good friends, but is in a major funk.
He is also a tech nerd, so when he hears ago a new revolutionary operating system, he decides to give it a try. OS1 is a new program that learns through experiences and has the potential to learn to think and feel.
When he uploads the system, which for him is named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), he realizes that he has finally found the perfect woman. She is caring, smart, funny, fully focused on him, and quickly learning more and more of what it is like to be human.
Only problem is she doesn’t actually have a physical body.