Film review: ‘Her’

Through researching Her before starting my review, I noticed it is described on Wikipedia as being “science fiction”. I can only presume whoever wrote that isn’t entirely technology savvy, for only this type of person would place a film about social media and digital communication technology in the same genre pool as The Matrix.

In a nutshell, the narrative follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who ironically, earns his living by writing personal, intimate letters for other people. He eventually winds up falling in love with an operating system called Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) and of course, suffers the inevitable consequences of romancing an electronic device. This isn’t my usual bag but I’ll try most things once.


I have to admit, I don’t think I would have necessarily gone to see Her had it not been for the presence of the man, the legend that is Joaquin Phoenix and Spike Jonze’s recent Oscar award for Best Screenplay for the film. Nor can I claim that I was drastically proved wrong as the narrative was frustratingly lethargic and a tad too far fetched for me. However, as a former Film student, I did pick up on a few interesting points and enjoyed a little mooch around the mind of Jonze as he cheekily comments on the rise of digital communication and the effect it’s having on our relationships and ability to feel.

her-movie-2013-screenshot-samantha-pocketThe sweepy, creeping cinematography, jaunty angles and unconventional close ups instantly scream arty and unconventional. I also accepted the artistic use of sunlight and hazy lighting as being an indicator of it’s deep and profound nature but I had jumped the gun and judged too soon.

Throughout the whole film, Jonze employs this beautiful natural lighting to contrast against the harsh glare of electronic device screens that Theodore spends most of the film looking into. After copious amounts of point of view filming of computer screens and holographic video games, the gentle natural lighting is soothing on the retinas and forces the audience to remember their appreciation for nature. This one device alone conveys the whole message behind the film which raises concerns about the rise of technology and man’s loss of touch on nature, reality and physical communication.

Jonze also takes sex as a focal point and it is genius. Being potentially the most intimate, sensual, physical experience humans can go through, it’s the perfect vehicle through which he can make his point. From a cyber one night stand involving strangulation with a dead cat’s tail (yes, you read that right) to one of the most intense sex scenes I have ‘seen’ in a while, sex is key. You may be wondering why I used the inverted commas around ‘seen’…? That’s because the entire sequence where Samantha and Theodore consummate their digital romance is pitch black and we are forced to rely only on our audio senses and imagination to engage with the activity.

her-film-02We see a series of extreme close ups of Theodore before the screen goes black and we hear the vocal words and graphic sounds of the futuristic couple having sex in the only way they can – through description. The blank screen emphasises their lack of physical connection and represents a sad empty void, which I read as being symbolic of the gap technology is driving between man and his natural habitat. A genius move from Jonze.

We only ever hear a handful of voices throughout the film, made more poignant when Samantha’s voice over provides the sound to a scene in which a group of shouting people are totally mute to the spectator.

Through pushing the “limited perspective of an unartificial mind” Jonze puts fear in us all about our high-tech futures. Even as somebody who works in social media and spends a great deal of my time in Cyberland, it certainly made me think. I mean, I just type any old crap into my phone and know autocorrect has got my back and I’m a writer! Scary…

One thought

  1. I have to disagree on the science fiction comment ;p It’s totally science fiction. An operating system becomes sentient! Brilliant fiction of the science and is also a recurring theme in all great science fiction, just made more current (Android OS instead of an actual android!). Great review though, gonna go read some more…

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