Warning: Semi-spoilers below (I don’t give away the ending, but do discuss the plot).
I watched the movie “Her” recently and while I’m no movie critic, I enjoyed it so much that I felt compelled to write something. I’m sure my musings have already been published by someone else, but I’ve purposely not read any reviews of this movie, so that I can claim these as my own original thoughts. 😉
The basic plot line, as shown in the trailer, is that a man, Theodore, played by the always intriguing Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with an operating system, or OS. The OS is a new version just introduced with intuition, and Theodore’s installation names herself Samantha. If I haven’t lost you yet, good. Once you get over the hurdle of accepting that these things are possible, you’ll enjoy a love story that is as endearing and complicated as any other love story you’ve seen. But the movie is just as much about love as it is about the human condition, or what it means to really be a living, breathing, person.
The setting is a believable not-too-distant futuristic world with a hipster 70’s style (read: awesome). One important component of this setting that made it so believable was that while technology is very much integrated into everyone’s lives, people still maintain close personal relationships with one another. It was not a world where people spend their entire day staring at a screen with no real personal interaction (like we saw in WALL-E).
The story follows Theodore through the final stages of his divorce, the beginning stages of his friend Amy’s impending divorce (beautifully played by Amy Adams), and their growing relationships with their new OS friends. I watched the movie alone, and when my kids asked me how it ended, I told them to guess. Their guesses included a technological uprising, war, and even suicide. Without giving away too much, the most beautiful part of the story is that the more Samantha grew and developed her own personality and learned what it really means to be human, the more she wanted to find others similar to her. She wanted relationships where she felt she was with her equals. She wanted community.
You may have seen a quote on the Internet that claims, “A person only needs three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, something to hope for.” Samantha only had one of these with Theodore, and when she realized that, she desperately wanted the other two.
At first I didn’t like Samantha’s voice, as it was squeaky, raspy, and annoying at times. But it grew on me as I realized that was the whole point – to make her sound like a real person and not like a computer. The inflections in her voice are what made her real, and helped Theodore, Amy, and everyone else forget that she was a computer program. A heart-to-heart talk between Theodore and Samantha after their first fight was filled with so much emotion that I even briefly forgot that he was talking to a computer. It was a surprising and lovely feeling.
I did find it unsettling the way Theodore’s Samantha-connectivity-device hung precariously out of his front pocket the entire movie. It was distracting, as I couldn’t help but constantly worry about it falling out.
Thinking I was clever, and knowing the filmmakers put it there on purpose, I visited the website of Theodore’s employer, BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com. I expected to find an interesting, interactive microsite, perhaps even with the option for me to order my own beautifully handwritten letter. What I disappointingly found instead was simply a redirect to the movie’s official website. The tumblr-infused site offers fan art and tech-inspired news, but I feel this was a lost opportunity. There was so much potential for the studio to do something really interesting here, that could have encouraged a lot of social-sharing.
If you haven’t already, see the movie. It’s a beautiful way to illustrate the intersection of technology and human emotion.