Her Predicts a Frightening Future for Technology

Her Predicts a Frightening Future for Technology

Her, a “science fiction romantic comedy-drama” directed by Spike Jonze, came to theatres on January 10, 2014. So far, it has won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and has been nominated for five Academy Awards.

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 3.57.56 PMSet in Los Angeles about fifty years into the future, Her centers around the life of Theodore Twombly who writes love letters for people who have trouble expressing their emotions. Even though Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, can easily express others’ emotions, he struggles with his own, especially with regard to his impending divorce from his wife, Catherine, played by Rooney Mara.

What ultimately drives the plot is Twombly’s encounter with an advertisement promoting the first customized, artificially-crafted, intelligent operating system, OS-1. He decides to buy the software, and after answering a few simple questions, the audience hears an entrancing female voice that later identifies itself as Samantha.

The interaction between Twombly and his OS operating system, played by Scarlett Johansson, is tense at first. However, once Samantha asks Twombly personal questions, he feels more comfortable with her, and the two of them develop an intimate relationship as the movie progresses.

This relationship is just one of the ways the director explores technology’s effect on our society. It seems impossible that someone could fall in love with an operating system, but Jonze makes the relationship between Twombly and Samantha plausible. This “couple” goes through all the typical phases of falling in love – talking to each other nonstop, going on romantic dates (since Samantha is portable and has a camera that Twombly can face outward so that she can “see” the world), and having physical contact via a human-to-operating-system surrogate. Keeping in mind that this science fiction movie is also a romance, many of the scenes between Twombly and Samantha can be risqué.

While Jonze illustrates how technology could change our society, some of his most poignant shots documenting this subject are those that capture quotidian actions, such as taking the subway or going in an elevator to work. In one scene, Twombly walks through the streets of Los Angeles asking his operating system (one that he had before Samantha) to check his emails and update him with the latest news. Soon after this exchange, Jonze zooms out, and the viewer sees at least fifteen other people on the same street, doing exactly what Twombly is doing. It looks as if everyone is having one-sided conversations, completely oblivious to their surroundings.

In our own community, it is common to see individuals walking the Path, engrossed in their phones, but it is just as common to see groups of friends socializing on their way to and from Brunswick, greeting anyone they see along the way. To think that the near future could be one where social interaction is not a required or major component of everyday life is scary.

With a powerful message, beautiful cinematography, and great acting, there is little in Her that can be improved. That being said, the film does have unnecessary conversations between minor characters and tangential shifts from the plot that make Her a little boring at times. This two-hour movie could have easily been ninety minutes and had an equally profound impact on the viewer.

Overall, I would recommend seeing this film, but be prepared for some explicit content and some dull moments.