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Her – A Film Review

Her – Directed by Spike Jonze.

With Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Scarlett Johansson as Samantha.

Joaquin Phoenix in Her

Joaquin Phoenix in Her

Johansson is an Operating System. Her entire role is a v.o. (voice over) and yes, you never see her. I say yes, because 1) We all love to look at Johansson and 2) In an extraordinarily intimate love-making scene, you DO see her. You feel Her too … but too much into that would be a spoiler.

This is a brilliant screenplay. Can you have a fulfilling relationship with an operating system? Can you cure your loneliness with a voice somewhere out there? What can you be in this world of connections to cyber beings mashed simultaneously with connections to human beings?  Who is really out there when we communicate and share our thoughts, our feelings, our vacations, our births, our deaths, our wins, our losses and our photos of it all? What are we doing?

Our relationships are deluged with complications, fears, and misunderstandings. Our need to be loved can grip us with the inability to truly listen to others, even if not especially, to ourselves. Our need to feel alive can get in the way of our desire to be alive, when our cyber lives are teaching us how NOT to be intimate. Can we reflect on our feelings and lessons when it is so easy to find distractions? What is intimacy anyway?

These and many other questions just as interesting are addressed in Her.

The most interesting of all the queries is this – Have we felt all the feelings we are ever going to feel and every other feeling is a mere repackaged version of previous feelings — but lesser versions? Are we searching for the ever elusive ‘happiness’ in vain? Like a heroin addict, are we forever chasing the first high of our first flush with our feelings?

Another fascinating query is regarding our wants, our desires. We want love but we dare not ask for it. Is is safer for us to have ‘operating system’ relationships rather than human to human relationships? Are we having more relations with operating systems than with one another? Do we want to have human relationships or have we invented perfectly acceptable ways to avoid them? Will your mother ever ask you how you are without making it all about her?

Worry. Hurt. Desire. You may help wake someone up to their wants and desires but that does not mean your wants mesh with their desires at all.

Phoenix plays a writer who writes letters of love from other people to other people. The setting of the film is tomorrow – the not-at-all distant future. While his work is great and he should be published for a wider audience, it takes the assistance (unsolicited) from Her to help him out. Do we not have access to our potential when we have relationships with the cyber world? Do we all need someone who can do for us what we are too afraid or unaware to request? Are we too afraid and/or self-involved to help someone else out? Or does our lack of a genuine community block us from the essence of one another? Are these ‘operating systems’ killing the very humanity we crave?

Are we having more relations with operating systems than relationships with one another? There are other people most likely right next to you, right now. Perhaps we might benefit from talking face to face sometimes. Perhaps not.  Are we all like big love-starved stray dogs?  Always running, looking for the food of love and security?

Are any of our relationships exclusively ours or is our ‘operating system’ in love with 641 other humans?

Are we changing all the time, every moment of every day, whether awake or asleep — just by having feelings?

The only way to review this film with any respect to it is to ask the questions posed in the film.

Whether the questions are answered is as individual as each person viewing it.

This is not your everyday romcom. This is something much more profound. This is something far more ridiculously and painfully close to home. Just like all the questions in this article, it is all very irritating and confusing … And this is no accident. Jonze knows exactly what he is doing and does it with pin point precision. We are all a part of this cyber world where we spend so much of our time, but does it help or hinder our lives?

I cannot begin to give this film a number of stars from one to five. It is way past those arbitrary stickers on homework. The irony of sharing this with you online is not lost on me. In fact, my frustration with the premise of Her is like biting down on a bottle cap on purpose.  I do not recommend it.  I do recommend this film.  We all need to feel as uncomfortable as this film makes you feel.  After all, you might have only one chance at it.

Her should be viewed and discussed immediately afterward … In person with another human being who has also seen it, preferably sitting alongside you. See it. Think about it. Feel it.

That’s it.

— Laura Tompkins

2 comments on “Her – A Film Review

  1. Another wonderful articulate piece of work! Your Artwork always leaves me waiting for your Next!!

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