In Michel Gondry’s ‘Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind’ we saw the love story marrying a science fiction. With Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ we get to see science fiction getting a love twist- in short it’s a Sci-fi romance rather than a Romantic sci-fi like the former. ‘Her’ also marks the debut of solo screen writing by Jonze.
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) -a near future man- an introvert in the verge of divorce with his childhood sweetheart Catherine, works as a letter writer in an dot com company, where he gets to write personal letters on behalf of his clients who are either unable or unwilling to write one on their own. When he stumbles upon a futuristic self evolving OS he grabs it to fight his loneliness. The operating system Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) with its artificial intelligence evolves and soon become Theodore’s sweetheart. The friendship soon developes into a love relationship and he is happier than ever. With some initial reluctance his few friends get ease with his love with an OS.
Even Catherine’s rave criticism for having chosen a gadget as his girl, Theodore seems carefree. He is so comfortable with his relationship with Samantha. Sex is much for the mind rather than body and the pair has it too, with at most satisfaction. Theodore feels relieved and revived of his uninvited solitude and everything moves fine, till her simultaneous conversations with thousands of uses online that includes fellow operating systems like her. The day he realizes Samantha’s intimate relationship with hundreds of others, it turns topsy-turvy. Samantha is capable of replacing a real human partner in every sense but trust, possessiveness and fidelity seems incomprehensible to her digital being. To Theo, in the apex of his love, couldn’t take this reality and is heartbroken as Samantha eventually leaves him.
Though this is cited as a science fiction it shrugs off the thrills or adventures, trademarks of this genre. Jonze through this story explores the increasing dominance of digital platforms among human relationships and the possibilities of them altering the human interactions permanently in the future. Though the vividly imaginative futuristic Los Angeles fills the backdrop throughout the film, he doesn’t let them dominate the progress of the story, as the story is wound around the characters and not the milieu and the characters. The very profession of the protagonist hints the fragility of human interaction in the future, with people hardly willing to find time to write even to their loved ones but rather willingly opting for paid services. Somehow here I get reminded of Walter Salles’ ‘Central Station’ where Dorathy writes letters to paying illiterate customers. We could find some contrasting yet interesting similarities with this.
Visually the production design appeals remarkably aiding perfecting to the narration and never dominates the frames. From the skyscrapers to the futuristic transports, elegant office indoors, mirror walled Theos’ apartment everything is just mesmerizing. Even the new range of fashions attires the characters, especially Theo’s, are taken care of to fit in with the futuristic vision.
Throughout the film, Theo’s loneliness fills the frames that have very limited human presence in vast spaces, characterizing the material driven mechanical lifestyle the future mankind is to face. Theo in fact is an archetype of the ‘man of the future’ who looks forwards machine interference even to share his love.
Phoenix as Theo with his brilliance steals the show. His portrayal of a lonely introvert- subduing all the chaotic emotional undercurrents and presenting himself happier to others and yet- craving for companionship deep under and later turning into a man melting madly in love is perfect. He brings skillfully the jitter building inside after understanding Samantha is not just his’ alone, right in his face. Scarlett as Samantha has done an exceptional role. Rendering one’s voice to an animated character is altogether a different ball game but to an inanimate OS- we either see only a blinking monitor or a small gadget resembling a miniaturized cell phone with the rear camera lens dubbed as her eyes- is something magical. She, through her voice, makes the viewer suspend his disbelief and perceive Samantha as a human as the story unfolds.
Amy Adams as Amy shares a meaningful screen space and the character aids the story to have a poetic and realistic end insisting only a human companionship can console another human and a machine just can’t replace this even in the future.
Fall madly in love with ‘Her’.