In today’s world, where we are flooded with the future every five minutes, dystopian sci-fi lost most of its charm. Enters Spike Jonze and Her, a brutally depressive yet beautiful film that hits a bit too close to home for most of us. This is the first film solely written and directed by Jonze, and it’s been collecting an impressive amount of screenwriting awards, as well as being nominated for Best Picture for the Oscars.
For two hours, we follow urban, lonely, mustache-owner Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) while he goes through his painful divorce with stunning Catherine (Rooney Mara), working as a third-party snail-mail writer and failing to connect at any level (even with sex chat). When he gets a new operative system that promises to answer all of his needs, he starts feeling drawn to the understanding and funny voice of Samantha (Scarlett Johannson), until he finally falls for his gadget and goes steady with her. From then on, it’s human heart machine.
Stylistically, the film has wonderfully filtered, almost Instagram-like pictures, with its faded colors, sunshine rays and soft shadows. The dialogue is a mix of French New Wave with Woody Allen, where waves of thought come out from the characters lips with perfect structure and articulation, while Arcade Fire plays in the background. The immensity of space around Theodore all the time stresses his loneliness and separation from the real world, but we also have the poetic, breeze-like moments where the sun shines, people smile and the world is a beautiful place. Add Joaquin Phoenix in an impeccable performance – as lately he’s getting us too badly used to – and any blues you’ll get after seeing one of the saddest love stories of our time will be totally worth it.
It’s Siri all right, but what kind of commentary is Jonze doing, in the end? Theodore seems to be incapable of dealing with real emotions and people, but if it wasn’t for Samantha, Theodore would not get over Catherine and move on. We see shots of individuals completely sucked into their virtual worlds, but Theodore only starts enjoying the real world when Samantha asks him to show it to her. This complex moral ambiguity – that goes up a level when we leave Lars and the Real Girl territory to go into a soft Terminator scenario – is what makes Her, to me, one of the greatest zeitgeist films of our time.
Her will be released in the UK on February 14th.