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February 7, 2014her-movie-poster
It would be a sin to filmmaking, writing, and love to write a review of “Her” based on a man who finds an inanimate piece of technology attractive. That is not what this movie is about. This movie is about two people falling in love – fine, two characters falling in love, if you can’t get over calling one a person. It is found in every corner of this story. It’s about the genesis, life, and death of a relationship; two individuals, falling in love, discovering their world together, stumbling through the difficulties, and arriving at the eventual end of their time together. “Her” is a brilliantly told story of what it’s like to be with someone – what it’s like to be in love.

Taking place some time in the future, though never specified, Theo (Joaquin Phoenix) works is a letter writer for people to send to their family, lovers, friends, whomever – a job that is apparently needed in the future. He obtains a newly released operating system who calls herself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) and quickly finds the companionship he’s been missing since his separation from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) a year ago. You immediate recognize the tell-tale signs of a sparking relationship and witness the two of them creating a life together.

So much feeling was bound throughout this movie. It was everywhere. The script was completely engulfed with them and the characters provoked them beautifully to the audience. Written and directed by Spike Jonze, he created a film out of a script whose only focus was the telling of Theo and Samantha’s relationship. It didn’t pay any attention to the year the story took place, the reason for the new OS, why Theo writes letters or why people don’t write them themselves, or the fact that Theo was falling in love with Samantha and she with him. This story was not about a man who can’t find love or doesn’t know what love is. Theo knows love. He knows how to feel it, knows how to show it and receive it. He just never found the right counterpart.

It was so well written that any immediate thoughts of the situation being taboo or awkward were completely lifted away.  The acting of Scarlett Johannson as the voice of Samantha was a main reason their relationship felt real. Her interactions with Theo, and the lack of time the camera spends on the physicality of her, quickly makes you forget that she is an OS. Everything else, the thoughts she evokes, the feelings she stirs in Theo and you as the audience, brings to life a character in the most mesmerizing way, creating the very essence of the story. You care so much about the two of them throughout the movie. You want the best for them. You worry about them. Their interactions with each other, including what I feel is the most brilliant and beautiful sex scene ever portrayed on screen, provides so much of real life, so much of what it feels like to be in a relationship that you forget about who the individuals are and only care about their connection.

The only character who found it strange that Theo was dating an OS was his ex wife, Catherine. Even this was a brilliant way to keep the focus of the story on the relationship. Everyone else he tells, his coworker Paul (Chris Pratt), his neighbor Amy (Amy Adams) all think nothing of it. Of course it’s his ex that has an issue with it. No ex wants you to be with someone else. She doesn’t care that he’s happy. She doesn’t care that he’s found love. Having any other character bring up the strangeness of Theo dating Samantha would have the story center around her being an OS, but having Catherine get angry and even jealous keeps the story’s priority on two people in a relationship.

Though so much of the film was concentrated on the telling of Theo and Samantha, the other aspects such as the setting, time, and art direction were beautifully carried out to reinforce the script. The production design was phenomenal. It brought the future to you without the oddities of flying cars or other devices that are stereotypical of futuristic worlds. The very computers and operating systems that the characters use feel real. It made you feel like this is what technology will actually evolve into with it’s simplicity and familiarity to what we use today. Everything from the computers, phones, earpieces, computer games, and even the office Theo works in all felt as if we were put into a time machine and sent to the actual future.

The score was well deserving of the academy nomination and should receive it.  Written by Arcade Fire band member William Butler along with Owen Pallett, they created the perfect accompaniment to the character of Theo and the abyss of his emotions. In a fantastic decision by Spike Jonze, Samantha composes music to convey the feelings she has in an attempt to feel alive and physically present in the room with Theo.

Though I highly doubt it will take it home, “Her” was the best picture I have seen in years. Never has a movie provoked so much feeling out of me than this one. If you didn’t find truth in Theo and Samantha’s relationship, then I’d wonder if you’ve ever truly been in a relationship. From a straight filmmaking perspective, a story could not have been better told in every aspect, from the wardrobe, props, score, script, acting, or design. There’s so much to say about this film. I could go on and on. All that’s left is that I hope it does not take this long for me to completely fall in love with another movie like I have this one.


Ryan Schwalm

Author Ryan Schwalm

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