HER [2013] movie review – highest recommendation

January 11, 2014 · Print This Article

I felt things while watching HER [2013] that I never felt while watching a movie before because I never had those feelings, or better yet, sensations before. I almost feel chemically changed from it, like I just saw the future and watching the movie was deju vu and I already know the ending to life. If none of that makes sense that is the effect watching HER has had on me in the immediate minutes after finishing it.

To be clear, HER is a must see. I found it absolutely mesmerizing. The movie put me into an immediate trance, into the exact same world as the main, and really only, character, Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix. He is suffering through the aftermath of his marriage ending. He walks comatose through a future metropolis. It is L.A. in the future (actually filmed in Shanghai). His head is almost always down. His eyes never seem to actually fix on anything, always looking glazed over. Yet his job is writing heartfelt letters for people to their loved ones.

He passes by public displays for a new kind of OS, called OS 1 that claims to have unbelievable AI. He goes home and installs it on his computer. It asks him only three questions, if he wants a male or female voice, how is his relationship with his mother, and something like if he feels happy. That’s it, and boom, immediately we hear “her” voice (Scarlett Johansson). Right from the start the AI is uncanny and seamless.

How the relationship between the OS and Theodore develops is fascinating. How the people around Theodore react to the existence of this OS is as well. For a movie with basically one character and one unbodied voice, it creates such a rich and full world, as detailed as the world created in Lord of the Rings movies, but of course in a much different way, but I feel HER shows us a very complete vision of the future with no whizz bang things, just this OS that is in your head anytime you want it to be.

And it all made perfect sense to me. Of course this is how the future will be. It seemed so natural that this kind of OS, this level of AI, would come to exist. I wanted it to be like that and would welcome it. What was scary was that it did not seem scary to me at all. I was so immediately willing to go along with Theodore into this relationship with this OS. In the back, back of my mind though, there was the sense of this is just too easy. Too perfect. It would be like being in a relationship with your own mind, how you imagine your own perfect partner to be, and just like that, she has no body and only exists when you call her up (either in imagination or in the world of HER by using your earpiece and little mini-book screen that has endless battery life).

The movie is very, very nuanced. The viewer is not beaten over the head with anything, but you can see I think what Spike wants you to see, that every in the future is talking to these devices, these OSes. This is only in the background though, and as a viewer you do not care about that, you just want more time with the OS yourself.

It starts to seem like this is the ideal form of relationship, the apex of romance. A paradise for introverts.

Theodore and even his friends have no problem embracing Samantha, her, as his actual girlfriend. Even having a picnic with another couple and them talking to a speaker device is perfectly normal, no one points out the absurdity of it because it never occurs to them it is absurd. That is the power HER has at creating this future form of normalcy, the movie’s greatest strength perhaps.

I cannot use any adjective to describe the final act as I do not want to hint at the tone of it, but it is an extraordinarily effective ending. HER is one of the best movies I have ever seen, and will compete with ABOUT TIME for my favorite of 2013.


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